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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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. 



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.


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.



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.










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


So the Gang’s Vaccinated but You’ve All Forgotten How to Interact Socially: TableTopCrashers Edition

It was 4 years ago, in June of 2017, that I was invited over a friend’s house to play a game. My friends Dan and Kevin love table-top games. That first night was a Game of Thrones table top game and it sounded fun. I thought I’d hang out, have a few beers, and play for an hour or two. The game lasted 6 hours. It was intense. I was not prepared. My wife was texting me asking if I’d been kidnapped. I survived that first night, although I’ve never played the Game of Thrones game since. Instead, that night turned into a D&D campaign where this same group of friends gets together once a month to role-play and Roll Initiative. That night has also led to more friendly gatherings with us and our wives and many more table-top games, all of which have been introduced to me by Dan or Kevin. I thought it’d be worth sharing the games I have really liked and look forward to playing now that all my friends are vaccinated and we are hanging out again. I also asked my favorite “Game Masters” Dan and Kevin (Kevin insisted they be called this) to weigh in on my choices.

1. Codenames: This is a team game where the Team Leader gives their teammates one-word clues to try and figure out all the words that correspond to their team color: red or blue. My wife, Sarah, and I are terrible teammates because after 18 years we still don’t understand how the other thinks. It’s a fun game to start the night off and get everyone interacting.

Dan: “A great party game for large numbers. Easy to teach for any level of gamer.”

Kevin: “First party game I purchased after watching it played on YouTube (TableTop/Wil Wheaton, which I can’t remember if I found myself or was recommended by Dan). It’s a perfect blend of Password meets Battleship.  Once everyone gets it, it’s fun.  Sometimes, it sucks when people aren’t on the same page, but that’s why it’s a game.”

2. Times Up! Title Recall!: This is a fantastic game that combines elements of $100,000 Pyramid, Codenames, and Charades. It’s perfect for a large number of people to split into teams. Players try to get their teammates to guess the same set of titles over 3 rounds. In round 1, you can give different clues. In round 2, you can only use one-word clues. In round 3, you cannot use words. I’m still bitter about the time my team didn’t guess “Born to Run” in round 3.

Dan: “Another great party game. Guaranteed to give everyone a good belly laugh.”

Kevin: “The perfect party game with people who know each other’s quirks and stuff.  Charades, password, plus “guess what I’m trying to get you to guess without saying it”.  Plus trying to just remember everything beforehand.  Love it.  But I think it depends on the crowd.”

3. Love Letters: This is described as a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2-4 players. It’s a card game and the deck only has a total of 16 cards. Each player starts with one card and on their turn has to draw a new card and discard one. The cards contain actions the players can use to try and knock other players out of the game. This has been my recent favorite card game. It’s fast and has elements that allow you to guess another’s player card.

Dan: “Draw a card, play a card. Simple mechanics and lots of fun. Great time filler game.”

Kevin: “Love it and all its variations.  Perfect “filler” game, as they say.  My wife hates it. I don’t know why.  I think it’s just because there is no specific “point structure in place.” Fun to just kill some time in between “heavier” games.”

4. Secret Hitler: There are liberals and fascists and someone is secretly Hitler. The fascists do what fascists do and the liberals try and stop them. The game is set prior to World War 2. It’s good for 5-10 players.

Dan: “A great social deduction game. May take a few rounds for everyone to get the hang of it. You won’t ever trust anyone again.”

Kevin: “Meh.”

5. Wingspan: When Kevin described this game to me, I thought it sounded insane. Sarah and I played with Kevin and his wife, Kristen. I won, so of course, I had to include this game on this list. I can’t even describe fully all of the elements of this game or how to play it, but it’s brilliant. It’s described as a card-driven, engine-building board game. There are beautiful illustrations of so many different birds, and there are eggs, and food tokens. Just get it. You’ll like it.

Dan: “A step up in weight and strategy. A beautiful game that brings in heavier board game mechanics.” 

Kevin: “When I really got into the hobby, this was a game that just looked beautiful and had an odd theme.  It’s one of the more intermediate games I’m into but everything about it just works out to a perfect “t”.  The theme plays great. It’s just fun to play with people once they get the hang of it.  Also, it’s one of the more complicated games that I actually was able to explain to people (Which doesn’t happen that often).  I have nothing but great things to say about this game about birds.  I don’t even care if I win or lose.” 

6. Carcassone: This is a tile placement game set in southern France that’s good for 2-5 players. I’ve played a few times and I’m still not great at the strategy of road/city building. Kevin really likes this game (and is great at it) so we’ll start the night with this one if he’s grumpy.

Dan: “A good gateway game to introduce the general board gamer to modern board games. Easy to learn and a great strategy game.”

Kevin: “Wingspan and Carcassone are close in terms of my favorites.  Carcassone was the first game I remember really enjoying with its simple gameplay.  Each game is different.  I like tile/worker placement games.  I didn’t realize there was actual strategy involved until playing online.  I’ve played this game hundreds of times either on line or at a table.  The artwork is great.  Each game reveals a different “board.” This is my favorite game.”

7. Potion Explosion: I like that this game uses marbles. You take an ingredient marble and if that causes marbles of the same color to connect, you can take them. You use the ingredient marbles to build your potions, set out on cool-looking potion game pieces. Once a potion is finished, you can use it to unleash the abilities on the game piece.

Dan: “It’s a phone app in the form of a board game.”

Kevin: “It’s fun. Kind of like “Real life” Candy Crush but with other people. It’s solid.”

8. Bang the Dice: The players are either Sheriff, deputy, outlaw or renegade determined by card draw. It’s an easy game to get the hang of fairly quickly, and the dice element is different than the other games we typically play (other than D&D).

Dan: “A fun, quick-hit dice game.”

Kevin: “My first dice game that I’ve purchased.  I think I’ve played this and King of Tokyo.  This is better.  It’s easy to play and easy to explain.  I just wish I could play it with more people more often.”

9. One Night Ultimate Werewolf: This is an app-driven game that can have up to 10 players. Each player is given a character with an ability and the goal is to either kill the werewolf, if you’re a villager or if you’re the werewolf: survive. It’s great fun and I am absolutely terrible at it.

Dan: “A shorter social deduction game than Secret Hitler, but just as fun. Multiple player roles add variability.”

Kevin: “I’m indifferent on Werewolf.  It’s fine.  I don’t necessarily feel a need to play it again.”

10. Dixit: Whenever anyone suggests playing this game, I always have to be reminded what this game is about, but once reminded, I always want to play. The players are dealt 6 cards. Each player takes turn being the storyteller and makes up a sentence about one of their cards. The other players select one of their cards that matches the story. After the cards are shuffled and set out, the players try and guess which card was the storyteller’s card and points are given out accordingly. It’s good for 3-6 players, but I think 5-6 players works best.

Dan: “Another great gateway game to introduce the general board gamer to modern board games. Invest in expansion packs though.”

Kevin: “Just a beautiful easy to understand game that works for all involved.  Once you go through enough cards though, it could get repetitive without having to buy expansion packs.  If you’re not “close” with the group you’re with, this would be a safer bet than Time’s Up! Title Recall!”

11. Century: Spice Road: Have you ever wanted to learn about the spice trade? I put this game into the category of games like Wingspan. There seems to be a lot of components to it, but I was able to figure things out fairly quickly and enjoyed playing. It’s good for 2-5 players. There are various and sundry cards that you can use to establish a trade route and trade spices. Do not be intimated by this game. It’s fun.

Dan: “Another game that is a quick and easy teach. Good components.”

Kevin: “A solid game that seems complicated at first but isn’t.  I could play it any time.  I also had fun making up my own “player board.” I have nothing bad to say about it.  Nothing particularly great though either.  It’s just a fun game.”

12. JAWS: I love JAWS. It’s one of my favorite movies and I was happy to play this game. One team is Brody, Hooper, and Quint, while the other sole player is the shark. Each turn allows the players to accomplish certain tasks to either kill the shark or to eat swimmers, if you’re the shark. Quint is not allowed to eat swimmers no matter how many times I suggested it. I worry about the re-playability of this game.

Dan: “Fun game for one of my favorite movies. Make sure each person plays as both crew and the shark.” 

Kevin: “As movie fans, it was fun to play.  I don’t really know about re-playability though.  It might just be fun to go through it the one time.  Maybe a second?  I don’t know.  It was fine.  It’s worth it to play just for quotes and stuff from the movie.”

13. Pandemic: I know. Believe me, I know. It’s a really fun game though and the first time Dan, Kevin, and I played (a year into the current pandemic) we won. It’s a cooperative game so the players all work together to stop the pandemic. What a concept!

Dan: “Another great game to introduce to new gamers about modern gaming. Co-ops are great games but need to make sure that one person doesn’t just take over and tell everyone what to do. It’s a fine line between team strategy and alpha gaming.” 

Kevin: “It’s fun and really good but more experienced gamers have a tendency to “alpha game” it so it’s like you’re just playing along with the alpha.  It’s a good game though.”

14. Downforce: This is a card-driven game where you bid, race, and bet. It comes with little cars that you move around the game board.

Kevin: “Very fun game.  Betting and racing.  It’s fun to kind of think you’re young again and playing with hot wheels/matchbox cars but with some strategy involved.  I will play this game anytime and also play for additional laps (not just one).”  

15. Exploding Kittens: This is a card game involving exploding kittens in which the goal is to cause another player to draw the exploding kitten card.

Dan: “Another quick and fun game. Get the kids involved.”

Kevin: “Another perfect “filler game.”  Kids (who can understand) and adults just enjoy it.  It’s just fun.  Maybe the Ted Lasso of games.”

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.


The Last Book You’ll Ever Read #2: Inevitabilities and Causes

At the risk of sounding even more like GateCrashers’ resident Pop-Pop, I need to mention the Vault Undressed variant covers for this issue, which are scandalous and definitely worthy of that black bag they put them in. One is done by main artist Leila Leiz and colorist Vlad Popov and the other is done by Richard Pace. I’m not sure which I like more, but I will say that for the Leiz/Popov cover, it took me a while before I noticed the heads of the two dead guys.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Getting in to the issue itself, we find Olivia Kade on her book tour and she’s met with angry protests. Connor Wilson, who is hired to protect her, still hasn’t read the book per Kade’s instruction to him, but he wonders if her treatise on the downfall of society and humanity’s descent into cruelty isn’t accurate. At the signing, Olivia again reads from Satyr and if the theme of the passage from the first issue was about binary of the predator or the prey, this time it is civilized or wild, with everything going swimmingly well for two pages until a couple is caught having loud and aggresive sex. The question remains as to whether Olivia’s book is merely documenting society’s decline or is perhaps causing it.

Bunn has created a fascinating character with Olivia Kade and the script shines in the scenes between Olivia and Wilson as the latter tries to dig deeper to figure her out. The dynamic between the two feels like something out of an old Hollywood movie and that sensibility is mixed in with the modern issues of violence, depravity, and sex. It is interesting to see everything play out.

Leiz’s artwork works incredibly well in telling this story. There are several times when a close-up of a character’s face and eyes are shown outside of a panel. Or they are overlapping with a couple of panels and the pages of dialogue pass in the looks. The aggression of the crowds and Olivia’s fear are captured so well. The last few pages, which switch between a full page fight scene and a full page sex scene, show the ability to be dynamic and sensual. And that last page is sexy as hell.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Both Giada Marchisio and Vlad Popov are listed as colorists and because of them, I appreciate how bright and alive this book looks. With a story like this, I think there could have been a tendency to make the book look dark, but I don’t believe that would work. Jim Campbell is the letterer and as always, his lettering never gets in the way and is absolutely crucial to this story, especially with certain panels being heavy on dialogue. The lettering during the fight scene was particularly well done.

There’s definitely more to the story Satyr as Olivia is once again assailed by a protestor who mentions “The Wilding.” And after two issues, I’m not concerned that I don’t know more about where the story is going. I am surprised that the relationship between Olivia and Wilson predictably played out in this issue, but I’m still invested in seeing where things go from here.

Comics Uncategorized

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Brings Us Closer to the BatFam than Ever Before

The first offering of DC and Webtoons’ recently announced partnership, the first 3 chapters of the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures are absolutely delightful.  Written by CRC Payne and focused on Batman and the larger “Bat-family,” it’s a fun, slice-of-life, all-ages story that is allowing it’s lesser-known characters to really shine. And best of all, it’s completely free on the Webtoons app!

Wayne Family Adventures biggest strength is that it’s a story that could only be told in this format. A low-stakes book of fun family misadventures isn’t going to be dominating the direct market, but on a platform like Webtoons it’s able to bring more eyes to the Bat-family than there would be reading any regular issue of Batman.  As a huge fan of the Bat-family aspect of the DC universe, this is a story I, and many others, have wanted for years and as the family begins to tighten up in the main continuity, now is the perfect time for it.  With the series focusing on characters like Cassandra Cain and Duke Thomas who aren’t as well known to the wider audiences and more casual comic fans, it’s a great opportunity to bring more eyes to them.  While it acknowledges the 80 years of Bat-continuity by bringing in more recent characters like Duke and Damian, it’s not tied down by it.  You don’t need to know anything coming into these stories beyond the basics of “Batman fights crime and adopts orphans.” Every character gets a brief little blurb that tells you everything you need to know about them and the dynamics between the kids has all been set up perfectly to allow new readers a chance to really get to know them.

The art from the team of Starbite, Maria Li, Lan Ma and Jean Kim is absolutely perfect for this book.  The renditions of all these characters are adorable, and seeing Damian Wayne not coloured as a white person for a change was great.  The comic is vibrant and kinetic in the brief action scenes and every character is so expressive and cute.  Although some gutters seem unnecessarily large, it flows perfectly through the webtoons vertical format and little background details, like Bruce having a “worlds okayest dad” mug, just make the whole thing so charming.  The lettering from Kielamel Sibal is also key to the fun vibe that makes this series so special.

The first three chapters introduce us to the Bat-family, first through the eyes of Wayne Manor’s newest resident Duke Thomas, and then through the daily life of Oracle.  There’s an episode focused on the battle for the last cookie, and honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. The episode is full of the witty banter we all expect from our superheroes and as someone with many siblings, it completely nails the family dynamics and constant but loving fights there.  The whole thing is just complete fun and even Batman gets to just be an exasperated dad overwhelmed by his wonderful idiot children instead of a dark and broody figure.

If you’ve ever seen a silly tumblr post or fan-comic of these kids interacting and wanted more of that, this webcomic is exactly for you, and I cannot recommend it enough.  And once again, it’s completely free to read, with an option to read the next few early with Webtoons coins system!

Catch new episodes of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on Webtoons every Thursday.

Uncategorized Various Media

GateCrashers #FBF – September 2021

The GateCrashers are properly obsessed with lots of things. We’re so obsessed, instead of shouting our overwhelming joy for various forms of media into the void, we’ve created this monthly column – so we can share it with you. We know you think you’ve discovered all the good stuff out there, but we’re here to remind you that you may have missed a few things!

Film: Promare

Last month was Anime August here at GateCrashers, and to celebrate, I watched dozens of hours’ worth of anime (and, well…haven’t stopped). One of the anime I ended up watching was the 2019 film Promare, a movie I’d heard about for years before finally sitting down to watch it myself, and oh boy, was it a wild ride in the best possible way. 

Promare takes place in a post-apocalyptic world 30-years after a calamity where fires caused by mass spontaneous human combustion killed half the world’s population. Certain humans, like secondary protagonist Lio Fotia (left), developed pyrokinetic powers from the fires. Others, like primary protagonist Galo Thymos (right), spend their days putting out the fires caused by the combustions. It sounds way grimmer than it is. In fact, Promare is pure fun with beautiful animation and extremely meta dialogue. It even pokes fun at action-adventure story mechanics by naming their giant battle mech (yes, I said giant battle mech) Deus Ex Machina. Because, of course, they did.

I’d definitely recommend taking the time to watch this delightful movie. I rented it off of Amazon Prime for $1.99. But it’s also now available to stream on HBO Max, and it’s coming back to theaters for a limited engagement!

TV: Regular Show

I started watching Regular Show on HBO Max, as a way to have something to put on while I do other things or in little stretches of free time I have, given how short the episodes are. But I did not expect to be so engaged and entertained by it. It’s honestly crazy how invested I am in the lives of these dumbasses and their interpersonal relationships as much as their crazy bizarre adventures. Even more, as someone who currently finds themself in that same weird phase of life, it’s so reassuring, in a way, to see them go through it; be confused, fail, feel love, sadness, excitement, and sometimes even win.

TV: A Series of Unfortunate Events

I was a completionist when it came to reading long book series growing up. Comprising thirteen novels total, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was among one of the first full series I remember reading. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the 2004 film adaptation. Flash forward to 2017, and the books finally received a worthy Netflix adaptation. I watched the first three episodes with joy but forgot to ever return for more. Finally, having graduated college now and finding myself with more time on my hands than I could have ever imagined, I consumed every episode of the completed Unfortunate Events Netflix series in about a week. The dark comedy, gothic undertones, phenomenal acting, and sharp humor captures the book series’ tone identically. I binged the show and felt my mind actively sharpening, wheels turning in my head with analysis and appreciation for the visionary media I saw on the screen. Needless to say, I’m happy I was able to revisit the show with each episode available to stream all at once. A few essays about A Series of Unfortunate Events may be on the horizon.

(Side note: Daniel Handler’s inappropriate comments and utter sexism are unacceptable. It’s unfortunate that he is entirely connected to this adaptation of his books, but I am choosing here to try and separate the work from the creator without praising the creator himself.)

Graphic Novel: are you listening? by Tillie Walden

When I was a kid growing up, my family would frequently go on long car rides. Be it down the 95 to visit my grandparents in Florida or across the state to spend a Christmas afternoon with my dad’s side of the family, I would always love going on these long car rides. Just seeing the world pass me by. The odd tourist attractions, the cold dips of snow, or even the presence of other cars. I remember this one time, we were stuck in a massive traffic jam, practically frozen in place for two hours. It got to the point where many drivers and passengers, myself included, actually left our cars to stretch our legs and see what had happened. I bring this up because reading Tillie Walden’s brilliant are you listening? brought back these memories and so many others. A story of love, healing, and the desire to get a cat home, are you listening? is a triumph of color and images. Its color pallet perfectly captures the comforting, dangerous, melancholic atmosphere of being on a multi-day car trip. It’s a feeling I will always hold dear and one I love every time I see it. Highly recommended.

Documentary: The Last Dance

On a chilly November morning in 1996, my father and I witnessed a young rookie Allen Iverson play against the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan. Growing up in the 90s meant one of three things: you owned a pair of Air Jordan’s, you had a #23 Bulls jersey, or you had seen Space Jam more times than you would brave to admit. You didn’t want to just play basketball like Mike, but rather as his famous slogan stated, you wanted to BE like Mike. Flash forward to this soul-crushing pandemic, and the basketball gods had gifted us an enlightening documentary called The Last Dance, a never-before-seen / behind-the-scenes look at the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. I’ll admit, my first watch took place only hours after its release in early 2020, and yes, I even participated in the memes of Michael Jordan “taking things personally.” But like all things new, they are consumed so quickly, that sometimes a second look gives more depth than what was originally thought. Each of the 10 episodes carries you through the meteoric rise of Michael Jordan, while also capturing something that is ever-present with our current idolization of everyone in front of a camera, as well as a realization that Michael Jordan is human. He was an insatiable gambler, he smoked cigars, drank beers after games, he harassed and bullied teammates. Jordan was all those things, and yet he’s still known as an Olympic hero who literally lifted the NBA into a worldwide phenomenon. If you are not a basketball fan, this documentary might not give you quite the satisfaction, but you can still enjoy it as a time-capsule of the 1990s and a reflective piece on one of the greatest sports players of all-time. My wife, who is admittedly not a basketball fan herself, watched along-side me, which is a testament to the documentary’s appeal. Jordan’s basketball legacy remains untarnished, but as he walked away a hero, perhaps we have lived long enough to see him turn villain.

The Last Dance can be seen on Netflix, Prime Video, and for purchase on Apple TV.

Video Game: The World Ends With You

I’ve been on a The World Ends With You kick lately. I’ve always loved this game, but when the anime adaptation premiered earlier this year, a single gorgeous episode wasn’t enough to sate my appetite. So I downloaded the Nintendo Switch remake, and while I originally started playing it to kill time until the (excellent) sequel came out, it quickly sucked me in all over again with its phenomenally vibrant visual style and incredibly creative combat system. 

The sequel is out, and so far, it’s fulfilling its promise as the successor of one of the most legendary JRPGs of the Nintendo DS. But from time to time, I keep coming back to the original. With an incredible post-game experience that lets you travel back in time to uncover the machinations that were happening offscreen, that’s to be expected. It also doesn’t hurt that there are over 300 incredible abilities to collect and combo together, a killer story full of immensely satisfying twists and turns, or a cast of characters that will live in my brain for decades to come. It’s a singularly unique experience, and I can’t recommend it enough.

But don’t take my word for it; try out the (stand-alone) sequel’s extensive demo, or watch the anime adaptation on Hulu. Chances are, you won’t regret it.

Film: Cure

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure might be the best horror film I’ll watch all year. A bold claim to make given there are plenty of other horror films on the way, and yet I doubt any of them will hit in the same way Cure does. While many horror films work with overly familiar tropes and unearned jump scares with zero impact, Cure feels like an original work that aims to disarm you more than it wants to make you scream. The less said, the better; the film follows a police detective as he attempts to solve a series of violent and random murders. The only signifying clue that ties them all together is that each victim carries an X carved into them, and the murderer on the scene has no memory of committing the crime. What starts out as a curious police procedural quickly unravels into a commentary about the facade humanity puts on to hide away the potential for violence brewing underneath; the truth that any one of us may carry a desire to cause harm, one that is completely out of our control. Making excellent use of long takes, an editing style that calls to mind The Exorcist III, and imagery that sticks with you, Cure just might be the film that captures the pressure that comes with living during a post-pandemic (if we ever get there) mindset. There simply is nothing else like it. 

Books Uncategorized

Katie’s Book Corner (September 2021)

Wake me up, because September is beginning. September segues into Fall, as well as everyone’s favorite spooky season month. If you’re looking to summon the chilled winds and spiced flavors of autumn ambiance, look no further. Three books on September’s Book Corner fall into the paranormal or thriller categories. In addition, a magic-infused YA fantasy novel entertains a bona fide mystery, writhing with twists. Last on the list, deep-dive into the history of a sneaky comic book character who always electrifies stories from her stints in the shadows. Enjoy the seasonal change September brings with my top five reading recommendations this month.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
Genre: YA Fantasy
Page Count: 464

(CW: Mild Violence, Distressing Familial Relations)

Retellings are popular in YA literature, spinning gold from the already shimmering threads of stories penned by other writers. Elizabeth Lim approaches the YA retelling genre in the fantasy vein. Six Crimson Cranes draws from a lesser-known literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen entitled “The Wild Swans.” Like Anderson’s tale, Six Crimson Cranes follows the story of a princess fated to undo a curse cast upon her brothers. Shiori, sole princess of Kiata’s land, discovers magic, a dragon, and a terrible secret about her once-adoring stepmother. After Shiori’s six brothers are turned into cranes and Shiori is sentenced to muteness, she embarks on a mission to reverse her brother’s curse and overcome a looming evil.

Fairytales capture our imaginations as children. Stories of stolen children and villains conquered as a consequence of their own fatal flaws delighted our minds as we sat snuggled up under knitted blankets on winter nights, our eyes shining with awe. It’s no wonder readers are drawn to fairytale retellings as adults. We crave the unsettled magic still rattling in our bones from youth, and retellings bring this nostalgia to the surface in grand displays of light. Lim’s prose and story beats in Six Crimson Cranes casts its own enchanting spell on readers. Uncover the fantastical mysteries awaiting your inner child inside the effervescent pacing of this book.

Rebel Robin by A.R. Carpetta
Genre: YA LGBTQ+ Fiction / Paranormal / Media Tie-In
Page Count: 311

(CW: Mild Mentions of Violence, Homophobia, Sexism)

Stranger Things fans are some of the most patient people in the world besides the Barry or Venture Brothers audiences. Ever since the pandemic, filming the highly anticipated fourth season of the show has taken longer than anyone expected. If you’ve already dissected that Season 4 trailer until your eyes burned looking for clues, divert your attention over to this Stranger Things media tie-in novel.

Rebel Robin by A.R. Carpetta offers a backstory about Robin Buckley from the third season of the show. Incorporating story seeds proffered from Season 3, Rebel Robin takes us back in time to Robin’s high school years with Steve Harrington, her crush Tammy, and run-ins with familiar faces in Hawkins. Robin struggles with her feelings about her “hippie” parents and her friends in this novel. She’s a band kid who doesn’t fit in and decides she wants to flee to Europe during the summer. Life in Hawkins doesn’t feel like a life at all to Robin, so traveling far away is the only way to have real life experiences, right?

Rebel Robin is the highest rated Stranger Things tie-in books on Goodreads for a good reason. Carpetta’s writing nails Robin’s voice, intertwining 80’s culture with Stranger Things lore immaculately. The novel also explores Robin’s sexuality as she comes to terms with confused feelings and self-deprecation because of her outsider status. Canon Stranger Things paranormal events lurk in the background, coinciding with Robin’s personal narrative cleverly. Experience memories about the uncomfortable frights of high school side by side with a fan-favorite breakout character in this novel while you wait endlessly for Season 4.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
Genre: Adult Horror / Suspense / Paranormal Thriller
Page Count: 521

(CW: Terror, Violence, Sex, Gore, Homophobia, Slurs)

If you’ve never read a Stephen King novel (like me) because his writing style doesn’t personally appeal to you, I’d recommend The Book of Accidents instead. A teeth-chattering, paranormal horror story, author Chuck Wendig triumphs in horrifying readers with this 500-page novel. The Book of Accidents evokes an unsettling atmosphere in the first chapter, never releasing the tension until the book’s denouement. Nathan, Maddie, and their off-kilter son Oliver move to Nathan’s old childhood home in the shadowy woods after Nathan’s abusive father passes away. Soon after, all three encounter the supernatural. A former serial killer and town legends cloud the Graves’ perception of reality and folklore. Ghostly apparitions, demons from the past, and untrustworthy strangers cross paths with the Graves family, irrevocably altering their fate. 

There are certain books you don’t read at night; The Book of Accidents is one of them. I’ve kept the synopsis vague because horror books like Wendig’s novel are ones best appreciated going in with as little information as possible. Because of the length, the novel suffers from a few slow spots. Regardless, Wendig’s short chapters and chilling prose command your attention. Can’t wait for spooky season already? Scare yourself by reading The Book of Accidents.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott
Genre: Adult Thriller / Psychological Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Page Count: 351

(CW: Sex, Abuse, Rape, Implied Sex With Minors, Violence, Gore, Eroticism)

From the outside, the dance world appears glamorous. Picturesque dancers don pointe shoes over cracked feet and glistening costumes on stage, performing shocking feats with their bodies, necks elongated like swans. Ballet is one of the most rigorous forms of dance. Every movement, every hand placement, every breath relies on calculated precision in their execution. Megan Abbott’s The Turnout reveals ballet’s sinister side in a slow-burn, gothic-style drama. As opposed to singularly focusing on the children dancing, competing against one another for the coveted role of Clara in The Nutcracker, Abbott’s protagonists are the dance teachers. Sisters Dara and Marie Durant own and teach at their deceased mother’s crumbling ballet studio. When a space heater ignites a fire, Dara and her husband Charlie hire a seedy contractor to restore the former glory of Studio B. Old family conflicts and the contractor’s presence create fissures in Dara’s immaculately crafted existence. But amid boiling controversy, The Nutcracker showcase must go on.

The Turnout is dark, eroticism charging the narrative with descriptions that will make you squirm. Disturbing power dynamics and sexuality swirl around the story like a never ending pirouette. As a general warning, The Turnout depicts uncomfortable scenes and descriptions of sex, rape, and even child molestation. I was a ballet dancer for only a few years as a child. Fictionalized stories about dance like Abbott’s function as both a warning and a showcase of what real dancers endure on quests for perfection.

The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels Literary Criticism
Page Count:

(CW: Sex, Sexism, Misogyny)

Originally donning a literal cat head and titled simply, “The Cat,” the illustrious Catwoman made her comic debut in Batman (1940) #1. Catwoman was a pioneer, a female character appearing as one of the original Batman villains who could actually escape the Dark Knight while also exhibiting morally grey character traits. Tim Hanley’s The Many Lives of Catwoman charts Selina Kyle’s history in both comic and media canon.

Hanley examines many iterations of Catwoman, showing how she exists outside of the typical cultural framework expected in villains, heroes, and as a female. Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer’s on screen Catwoman portrayals broke barriers and perpetuated interest in the character. Unfortunately, Catwoman’s character was also susceptible to harmful, derogatory sexualization by male comic creators. Thankfully, she is gradually clawing her way out of to this day with Ram V and his artist redefining the feline fatale in the current Catwoman (2019- ) comic run. Hanley explores The Cat in-depth in his well-researched book to inform both well-versed and unfamiliar readers entertainingly.

Prepare yourself for horror and spine-tingling mystery novels when I return from another month of reading in October. Stranger things are on the horizon. I will emerge from the (hopefully) settled smoke here in NorCal next month, with five more reading recommendations.


We Don’t Kill Spiders #1 Review

It’s a viking murder mystery. That’s it, that’s the hook.

Credit: Joseph Schmalke/DC Hopkins (Scout Comics)

Look, there were a few ways I thought to start this review. At first, I was going to discuss how the Detective as a character is the perfect audience surrogate; how their penchant for discovery and their traditional role as outsider allows for natural explanation of plot and setting. If the audience needs to know something, so does the Detective. In a good mystery, all the information is shared – only the Detective’s insights are kept from the audience. Then, I decided to invoke Umberto Eco’s seminal novel The Name of the Rose, perhaps the most famous example of nontraditional detective fiction. I don’t think that you get We Don’t Kill Spiders without Eco’s story of friar-turned-investigator and its popularization of the detective outside of the modern and Victorian trappings the genre traditionally traffics in. After all, there’s no reason a detective couldn’t exist in the Middle Ages, or Viking-era Scandinavia. Neither of those really sat right with me, though – because the truth is both simpler and infinitely more interesting.

We Don’t Kill Spiders #1 is a damn good-looking viking murder mystery, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Joseph Schmalke (whose work I previously adored on Count Draco Knuckleduster #1) handles both the writing and the entirety of the art duties on We Don’t Kill Spiders, while DC Hopkins letters. This gives the book a very singular feel, and despite some occasionally clunky dialogue, I appreciated the unified vision.

The colors in particular are simply extraordinary. The Scandinavian environment gives Schmalke the opportunity to play with tone and temperature in truly beautiful ways, blending the book’s naturalism and mysticism incredibly well. The pink colors used to denote the book’s magic feels truly otherworldly next to the traditionally warm orange and cold blue environments the characters dwell in. 

Credit: Joseph Schmalke/DC Hopkins (Scout Comics)

Of course, none of this matters if the mystery is not interesting – in this case, however, it absolutely is. As We Don’t Kill Spiders begins, a serial killer is haunting a Viking community, slaughtering entire families, taking their heads, and covering their homes in runes. The local Jarl (the term for the chieftain of a territory in Viking history), Ulf, calls upon a well-known Viking detective of sorts named Bjorn to track down the killer and bring them to justice. Ulf has his own idea of who the murderer is – a witch named Revna, seeking revenge for her mother and grandmother’s deaths at the hands of the Jarl years prior, after their magic was blamed for the deaths of a number of livestock. Revna herself was a young girl, and banished from the community.

While Ulf insists she must be the killer, Bjorn decides to conduct a proper investigation. And when he meets Revna, it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems in this small community. Since this is only the first issue, there’s no way to truly tell if We Don’t Kill Spiders will stick the landing, but it does an excellent job at setting up a compelling mystery. While it may use the setup of a fairly standard detective story, the Viking setting and mysterious magic gives We Don’t Kill Spiders a great hook. I can’t recommend the book enough. 

Books Uncategorized

After the Ink Dries: A Review

CW: This review contains mentions of sexual assault. After the Ink Dries contains the following topics: Sexual assault, harsh language, suicidal ideation and suicide.

“Does a devastating event require a certain definition for it to be considered world-altering to the person it happened to?”

– Cassie Gustafson; After the Ink Dries

Stories about sexual assault are difficult to read. Real survivors of sexual assault are forced to live with the mental and physical repercussions of the incidents for the rest of their lives. Those who share their stories and those who never find the voice to air personal secrets for public scrutiny are both survivors deserving of love, care, and understanding. 

Fictional novels discussing mental health or assault issues of women help offer those silenced a voice. Writers like Laurie Halse Anderson have been educating readers with novels about a variety of issues women face. In 2019, Anderson wrote about her own experience with sexual assault in her harrowing poetic memoir, Shout. Most significantly, her novel turned movie Speak tells the story of a teenager who survived a rape, and the aftermath of coping with the horrifying assault while facing ridicule by her school peers. 

Enter Cassie Gustafson’s debut 2021 novel, After the Ink Dries. Comic creator Emma Vieceli illustrates 16 pages in Gustafson’s book in sequential art style. After the Ink Dries feels influenced by Anderson’s Speak, but takes a different approach to presenting the narrative. Gustafson employs a dual POV narrative — and one of these speakers is a male assaulter.

In After the Ink Dries, sixteen-year-old Erica Walker wakes up half-naked on a strange bed, hungover and covered in Sharpie. Her underwear and half her clothes are missing. One beloved black boot is missing. Observing herself, she comes to a gut-punching realization: A group of boys at the house party the night before wrote messages — and their names — all over her body. Erica escapes the house still full of teenage boys, memories blurring as she drives herself back home. All she remembers is the thrill she felt the day before when her crush, Thomas, hung out with her at the party that night. Unfortunately, Thomas was also present in the house with the other boys. Erica can’t find Thomas’s name before she scrubs the Sharpie and derogatory slurs from her skin in the shower. Still, she is left to wonder: Was she raped? And was Thomas, her music-loving, sweet, lacrosse-playing crush, involved in the assault? 

Before the assault, Erica had been an aspiring webcomic artist. She created an empowered female superhero as an alter ego named Erica Strange, assisted by her bat sidekick Sparky. Privately, she used art and writing as a personal diary on a hidden webpage. As the suspense builds and Erica begins fitting missing pieces of the night together, Erica Strange’s story parallels the thematic tension occurring in Erica’s real life. Viecelli excels in pacing the graphic novel scenes through analogous panel work and character designs. Gustafson’s idea to include visuals pays off in dividends. Through Viecelli’s always stellar art, readers glean further insights into Erica’s personality and thought process. We see Erica how she is perceived, how she thinks she is perceived, and how she wishes she was perceived with the inclusion of Erica Strange illustrations. Erica tries to cope with the trauma of her assault, and the art charts her emotional route.

Art by Emma Vieceli from After the Ink Dries (2021; Gustafson, Cassie)

By giving Thomas his own chapters and characterization, Gustafson dispenses a voice to an abuser. Now, with Thomas, his part in Erica’s bodily marking and possible assault is unclear. Alcohol and drunkenness skews everyone’s recollection of that Night. Thomas is portrayed as a “good guy.” He faces emotional abuse from his lawyer father about his music career, in turn only perpetuating Thomas’s drive to succeed. Throughout the book, Erica and Thomas remember the highs involved in their blossoming relationship prior to the Night. Thomas finds solace in writing lyrics, making music, and giving Erica tokens of his affection. I believe Gustafson’s point in writing Thomas’s POV is this: Thomas shows how anyone, any male, regardless of their character, is capable of sexual assault. Gustafson shows how Thomas grapples with guilt and uncertainty, not wanting to face the idea that, yes, he had something to do with Erica’s harassment. He convinces himself of his innocence because he could never have anything to do with something so vile.

Gustafson deconstructs toxic masculinity and victim shaming in Thomas’s chapters blisteringly. Yet, Thomas still feels somewhat underdeveloped, with his short chapters cutting into Erica’s narrative at a few odd times. This is my one criticism of the book, but the Thomas chapters are important.

After the Ink Dries combines dual first-person-point-of-views, prose, poetry, and illustrations, to detail Erica’s heartbreaking story. I’ve been reading Laurie Halse Anderson novels since high school, and heavy topical books are stories I feel compelled to read. I strive to gain a deeper understanding about mental illness, sexual assault, and other harsh topics I may or may not have experienced myself. After the Ink Dries will definitely trigger readers. Thus, this book should be read with caution.

Personally, I read Gustafson’s novel in one sitting. She possesses an innate ability in her writing. Through experimental writing styles and comic pages, Gustafson provides an engaging, authentic voice to survivors of sexual assault. Verisimilitude abounds in Gustafson’s detailed prose. 

Art by Emma Vieceli from After the Ink Dries (2021; Gustafson, Cassie)

I don’t usually “rate” books, but if I had to, After the Ink Dries receives and deserves 5 full stars. My attention was stalwart until the final page. I can’t wait to read Cassie Gustafson’s next novel releasing in 2022, The Secrets We Keep. Confront the horrors of real issues women endure by picking up a copy of After the Ink Dries.


BoomCrashers! Tales (Boom! Studios Releases for 09/01/2021)

Laila Starr

Planets rotated again, twirling on their axes at their own creeping pace across the galaxy. And, as the planets spun, she spun too. She had done this time after time. For the first time, she landed, not in a wasteland or in a grassy knoll, but on a bustling beach.

Emilia: Wow, there’s a lot of people here. God, there are so many animals roaming around too. I can blend in better since I won’t stand out. If I keep talking to myself I will stand out…where’s that journal?

She extracted the magical journal, a symbol of restoration and promise to return home someday.

Emilia’s Journal: I found myself lost in a sea of people right by the…sea. I’ve talked to only one mysterious traveler — one person — since this excursion happened. Breathing is easier here though, even amidst troves of people traveling to their destinations. Something led me to follow this little girl holding an injured puppy. Animals still make me nauseous, thinking about their germs and diseases. But they deserve a second chance at life. No creature deserves death, somber and isolated from the ones they love. She took the dog inside a building where an elderly man named Darius bandaged the dog’s leg. He has a weathered face with soulful eyes, posing no threat to the girl. I haven’t gotten a look inside his home. Animals flock here. They say animals can read emotions. Something about this man feels significant.

As the young girl departed, a beautiful stranger walked right up to Darius with bleeding confidence. Her face was unreadable. Her hair, dark as death itself. Ironically, this woman was the avatar of death. But, she was also Laila Starr. Laila had arrived to watch the interplay between life and death. The woman secluded behind Darius’s humble abode had come to watch Laila, so she snuck in Death’s door.

Laila Starr #5 (Written by Ram V, illustrated by Filipe Andrade with color assists by Inês Amaro, and lettered by AndWorld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Emilia’s Journal: Laila Starr. A pretty name juxtaposed with who she is. What she is. Some say you can find blessings in death. From Laila and Darius’s conversation, death has cursed both of them for decades. I’ve written before how death follows me everywhere I go in this grand cosmic scheme. Now, death is literally a few feet away from me. I wasn’t surprised to find out Laila’s identity. She carries herself unburdened, seeking answers and knowledge that will satiate her interest in Darius. 

Darius and Laila talked as the woman listened. She listened to Darius let loose words stuck in his throat for dozens of years. Darius searched for Laila Starr in places of ruin, losing hope that she was devoid of machinations against him. Darius also searched for his purpose. Folded into that purpose was a search for answers to immortality. 

Emilia’s Journal: Wow, these two are polar opposites yet attract one another. The effuse magnetism. Charisma. Death and life are cyclical to them. Grief and loss have slackened their hands on me since I began this journey. Laila, the goddess of Death itself, says she feared obsoleteness if Darius invented immortality. Her role would no longer be needed in the mortal realm. For such a powerful woman, I never expected to hear fearful words come out of her mouth! Darius throws his head back in a chortling laugh. Both Laila and I are stunned, taken aback by disbelief. Then, Darius tells Laila about immortality. He already invented it decades prior! Then…why is Laila here? 

Fate intervenes without vacillation. Fate is not a mediator, but a king, ruling over the temporary lives of those who walk the Earth for only a blip in the infinite ruler of time. For Darius and Laila, their fate was set when Darius was born. He found the answer to immortality. Laila could not kill an innocent human. Thus, the knowledge about eradicating

Emilia’s Journal: He’s had the secret sitting in his closet all these years? Instead of doing anything about it, he devoted his life to living. Darius is…dying. Everyone dies, but cancer is a particularly excruciating form of death for all involved. I watched someone I love wither away from the disease and wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone. But Darius, he has outrun fate. He is telling Laila how he was expected to live for only months, but he has already surpassed a year of surviving. My heart feels burdened with grief as he mentions a rift between him and his son. Grief is not meant to overtake life but to sit in our minds as a pocket of memory until we learn to make the most of the life we have been given. Coexisting with grief and helping community children and animals is how Darius has found the will to live. Life is a gift. A miracle.

Laila Starr #5 (Written by Ram V, illustrated by Filipe Andrade with color assists by Inês Amaro, and lettered by AndWorld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

She stayed for an indeterminable amount of time watching the sun dip in and out of the glittering horizon over the ocean waves. Darius grew weaker each week until he could no longer rise from his bed. Laila, death incarnate, acted as his caretaker. When Darius’s estranged son visited his dying father, the woman sobbed until her tears formed a pool in the sand. 

Eventually, Laila left. Another man embraced her by the undulating water as she pondered the undulations of her life. They left together. Laila threw the answers to immortality into the sea, fate nodding its head in understanding. 

After the dying sunlight swallowed them in shadows, the woman saw a box appear next to her. The red-painted wood bore similarities to Darius’s castaway box.

Emilia: It can’t be! I just saw Laila get rid of this cursed object!

To her horror, the nebulous light source returned. An enigma indescribable by human words soared toward the woman. She grabbed the box and sprinted. The sand held her feet, granules spilling upward like confetti. 

Emilia: You won’t take me! I have too much to live for!

She did indeed have much more life to live. This was not her end, but it was the end of her time in this universe. The light crackled with energy, seeming to laugh. But blackness pummeled her. Or maybe, it was fate.

Vampire Slayer

The enchanting fog embraced them and pulled them apart from the outside world. Aimée brought their mind out of the dreaming and grasped their new home for the next few hours, surprising themselves with humid dirt underneath. 

They turned around to discover what the thing they were resting on was. The place darkened even more as the fog choreographically spread away to reveal a grave, positioned before their eyes like an old gothic painting. Aimée looked at the ground with urgency and moved away quickly from a recently dug earth. 

Aimée: Fucking shit! I’m about to become one of them if I keep waking up in places like this.

Noise in the distance startled them. Grunts, roars, and cutting. They stood up and walked straight to the sounds, clumsily trying to avoid any tombstones without much success. But as the noises got closer, the fog dissipated and allowed Aimée to distinguish two figures standing in the middle of the cemetery. 

Aimée’s journal: There are two girls with…Swords? Fighting against purple-shining-skeleton-dogs! This is a lot cooler than the other worlds I’ve been in. Why can’t I have a sword?! 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #29 (Written by Jeremy Lambert, illustrated by Marianna Ignazzi, colored by Mattia Iacono, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire) / Source: Boom! Studios

They’re talking in the middle of the fight, that’s being confident. I heard the blonde one is called Buffy, and the brunette’s Morgan. She’s…from another world? Like me? Probably not the same though, they seem to have a very different objective. They were in the same organization but, something happened to Morgan. They were plotting against her. 

The swords continued shinking as they made their way through the skeletal hounds. But the barks and growls filled up more space, and they had to move faster as the seconds passed. Despite the clear expertise of the girls, the scene was becoming alarmingly threatening, even for them. But suddenly, Aimée’s focus redirected when a new sound adhered to the place.

Aimée’s Journal: A bunch of portals appeared out of nowhere! People like the girls are coming out of them to help. They defeated the hounds together! Now that they can relax for a second, their leader’s going on a rage about Morgan. She’s the one who plotted against her, and now they’re chasing them because they don’t want to give Morgan up! They could escape through a portal, fortunately. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #29 (Written by Jeremy Lambert, illustrated by Marianna Ignazzi, colored by Mattia Iacono, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire) / Source: Boom! Studios

Aimée: I’m guessing this is it for now. There’s a clear pattern to who I follow, and they’re gone. 

As they retreated into the cemetery looking for a place to sleep, they inadvertently stepped into a black leather coat. Aimée kneeled to examine it, to discover it was another one of those objects, like the knife when they met with Emilia. 

Aimée: Could this be…something fucking useful for once?

Amidst putting the coat on, a kind of vibration manipulated the air behind, a slightly recognizable feeling from not so long ago. Another one of the lights just found them. Almost tripping over, Aimée started running, wishing they didn’t splatter against one of the graves for the light to catch up. After struggling to jump over the fence and sprinting through the woods, they reach a dead end. A cliff cut their path with a view of the ocean as the being shined through the dark, crooked trees. They turned their head around a couple more times, hopeful of a sudden miracle that could’ve stopped them from doing what they knew they had to do. Nothing. They looked at the water before a short breath and jumped into the agitated sea. 

The journey down may have taken mere seconds, but it felt like an eternity. The ocean covered their whole body and dragged them to the deep. Panic and suffocation dominated them as their lungs filled with water. With the waves violently hitting them, and their little experience swimming, it didn’t take long for their sight to cloud. Everything turned black, and Aimée’s lungs yielded to the merciless nature.