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Archive for February, 2022

Week of 2-22-22

Could whoever is running the control board over at Superman and Lois turn down the “soap opera“ dial a few notches please?

Seriously, that’s most of what I observed this week. A sort of soap opera filler episode. The daughter found out about the affair Lana‘s husband had. This of course, ruins her quinceanera. Elsewhere, there’s drama between Superman and the General who thinks he’s in cahoots with Bizzaro, that’s why all but one of his team is dead… And Lois‘s partner meet up with the cult leader who slips her Mickey. Honestly, it’s just so soap opera it hurts. I know we’re gonna get past this, but I remember these kind of long stretches in The Flash as well… where it would kind of forget that it’s a superhero show and go full CW.

On the other hand, I don’t wanna complain too much. It’s still the best version of Superman I’ve gotten in ages, and man if they haven’t made Bizarro just terrifying. Like I mentioned last time, that’s no mean trick. We too often see Bizarro as a goof, a clown, and this one is anything but. This one is absolutely a stone cold killer with a chilling warning that war is coming.

Nothing much else on television, although I did check out a couple of comics this week. Nothing great to speak up there as well, it must be filler week for DC. Human target was really one of those stock filler issues as well, with a meeting between chance and Martian Manhunter that primarily occurs entirely in chances head. It does very little to develop the characters and nothing to forward the plot. Same thing with Spider-Man… Although in fairness, Peter is back in costume and getting back in action here, teaming up with Ben Riley. It’s more a penultimate story than it is a real driving force. That is to say, nothing to write home about. I’d really like this arc to be over soon please? Maybe get back to a status quo Spidey for a bit huh?

The one thing that I did find interesting this week was Devils Reign : Villains for Hire. The Kingpin, now mayor of New York, is doing the whole thunderbolt thing. Incomes USAgent basically offering his services to try and keep these villains under control. I’ve always enjoyed USAgent, and this is a prime example of why. He doesn’t have the virtue or moral fiber of captain America, but he definitely has the drive and the earnestness. When it comes to Truth, Justice and the American Way (hey, that’s catchy!), he’s a true believer. It’s a nice little side step. It can’t really stand on its own, but as a sort of sidequel, it’s one of the better ones.




essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

215I’ve never seen I spit on your grave. Not into rape / revenge films. I have however, seen Zombie Abomination. Thomas Berdinski is the most enthusiastic filmmaker ever and a Wasteland regular.


DollarindexProbably the best way to describe decoys is as a Species rip off at a college. We’ve got the same basic premise, alien being comes to earth to seduce men and find a mate, only with lower quality affects and how much smaller budget.

There are some good things about this film, the monster suit, when we see it, is very well done. They keep it lit properly  and for a rubber monster suit, it’s nicely effective. I also have to give them credit for doing a monster movie in 2004 when we were still transitioning from the Scream and I know what you did last summer model into the torture porn model – they were ahead of the curve when it came to reviving monster movies.

The film itself however can be confusing. We have two alien seductresses and the film never quite gets around to explaining which one is the actual billing. We get in a nursing index1him out of screen time with each, but the movie is not set up as an ensemble, and it seems like the director isn’t sure quite how to shoot it.
It’s a lesser problem for our heroes, as one is clearly the good guy and one is clearly the sidekick. However our hero himself, comes off as a bit of a jerk. Rather than rising to the occasion and going through characters arc of a heroes journey, he seems to think further and further in the paranoia and panic, and ultimately comes off as a little bit crazy once we hit the climax. Some of our civilians are afraid of him and with good reason. It’s not the slapstick, lunatic crazy of someone like Bruce Campbell, it’s just a little too over the top psychotic with a flamethrower and it makes it hard to root for him. The viewers put into the decision of quotation marks yeah, I know he’s the hero, but maybe the bad guys have a point…

The real failing here though is in the special effects. The rubber suits, when they show up index4look great but most of the time the aliens revealed themselves with tentacles bursting out of a cavity about 8 inches above where their belly button should be. The east tentacles look bad. They would’ve been difficult enough to accomplish practically, shot dead on and in full light as they were, but the CG just looks like Nintendo 64 video game garbage. It’s poorly antialiased with a obvious wallpaper on it, and pulls me straight out of the movie. At no time do I feel like I’m watching anything but a poorly CGI effect. Even watching this for the first time in 2004, these FX would’ve been pretty dodgy.

Overall it’s garden-variety horror fun, but honestly in a universe where Species already exists, there’s no real reason to watch this freaky little knock off.



85% of the cast is under 25

Bad CGI (common, afterFX, same old blood packs)


in love with Monster


essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


Night of the Blood Beast

boxclassicsindexNight of the blood beast is another one of those movies that I recall seeing at some point on mystery science theater 3000, and I know that I’m pretty much just gonna have to strap in and hope for the best. At least it’s a Roger Corman film, and the spaceship shots are pretty well done over the credits, even the shots of the pilot going down in his ship are tense and engaging.

They rush the pilot to the local hospital. “By all medical standards this man is dead!”


Of course the problem is, the body is not decomposing. He may be dead, but everything seems to be in stasis… everything except for one strange gash on his arm. They even discover normal blood pressure beginning. Strange things are happening on the cellular level in the blood, with an extra cell present, dominating and keeping it active. It’s enough that our dead pilot is up and walking again by the time we hit the halfway point in the film. They discover he’s got a foreign bodies breeding within index1him, and that’s when the giant monster bursts through the door.

The monster escapes into the wilderness just outside of LA – where every 50s sci fi movie seems to be set – and abducts the ingenue. Meanwhile, the undead pilot argues with his fiancé over whether or not they should kill the monster… Him too… He seems to have curious psychic connection with it, and insists it’s not evil.

Is it meantime, the monster learns to talk, and he insists that he brings ultimate salvation imagesfor mankind… But is it salvation or subjugation?

The ending feels ambiguous, it almost seems like the monster is right… And maybe the humans are overreacting? But they’re not portrayed as overreacting. It makes for a genuinely strange conclusion, on the other hand, any conclusion to this film is a good one. Nice looking monster, but I’d still like my 62 minutes back.


essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


Creating Critters


It had actually been on my mind since I spotted one at a horror con. I saw a stuffed critter and thought “I bet I could make something like that…I wonder what it would take?”


Up at the craft store I grabbed a pelt of black fur – one of those small packs that cost about four dollars. I already knew I had some white hairspray to add depth and some model magic at home for the face, so off I went.


After sewing up the pelt in a sort of dome shape, I stuffed it with fiber fill and glued a flat foam disk to the bottom so he could stand. Then I blasted it with the hair color. I’d had a hard time deciding what color fur to go with, but ultimately decided n a flat black that I could alter and color myself. The cheap white hairspray from halloween clearance worked perfectly, not only giving me a better streaked color, but also helping blow back the fur and sweeping it all back. I then cut some foam, curving and smoothing it with the dremmel,  and rolled little claws to stick on with glue and toothpicks for support.


Next up was to sculpt the face. I ended up pressing the upper face and lower jaw seperately,  then rolled each tooth individually. It’s tedious, but the only way I could really figure.

I finally painted the face and glued it on to the body. I like him well enough, but he looks a little surprised by something….and the more I’d look at the posters, the more it bothered me that the smile wasn’t quite long and sharp enough. I decided I needed to try again. After all, critters travel in packs and just one really wasn’t enough.


This time around I really squished the face, leaning into the curves and exaggerating the length of the grin.

Having done it once already, things went quicker, allowing me for more experimentation, and I ended up with a much nicer looking critter!


Tune back in next week for photos!





essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


Toyhio 12 Fully Loaded! (Winter 2022)

It was another record year attendance for Toyhio this winter. For the first time, I ended up actually having to stand in line for admission. Not a long line, certainly not as long as the two other lines pressed flat around the wall and winding into the halls. Some of this increase in attendance can probably be attributed to the wrestling guests that Toyhio brought in this time. It’s something they’ve been dabbling with, slowly increasing that guest list. I don’t know wrestling, so I don’t know these people. I don’t know if they’re local or national or what. But if you know, they’re bringing in the attendees. As I came in, I was worried that those were the lines to get into the actual vendors hall, but as I headed down the side passage, looking for the entrance, I suddenly found myself in one of the back rooms full of vendors. That’s when I realized how smart these lines were. They weren’t doing a lot to block up traffic, and the convention has done a good job of accommodating this new crowd.

For my part, I was there to look and see what I could find. Maddie had decided she didn’t want to brave the long drive just to hit a vendors room, but we texted back-and-forth with me sending her pictures of various pops and figures that I was encountering. Vendors were very accommodating about letting me take photos and check in with her before buying stuff. Obviously, I’m not the first one they’d seen doing this today. Madeline actually ended up spending almost as much money as I did in this, basically her baptism into the world of scalpers.

While Pops do dominate the landscape, I noticed a significant increase in the volume of Masters of the Universe this year. I don’t know what’s driving that, perhaps the resurgence of the brand as Mattel tries to put out as many toys as possible before they lose the license. Masters of the Universe was so prevelant there, that the one and only cosplayer I saw happened to be one of the Masters! Well, kind of… A young woman dressed in a stunning Orko costume greeted me almost immediately after I found my way into the dealers room. I love the blue wig, it just sets the whole thing off perfectly. It was also a pretty good omen for just how much he-man stuff I was going to see today.
The problem is, The prevalence of so much new stuff, is for some reason also driving up the prices of all broken figures (Similar to the phenomenon I noticed about a year and a half ago or so with the Real Ghostbusters figures)…And that’s exactly the sort of stuff I’m looking for to customize! He-man stuff was everywhere. Not just normal vintage, but a surprising amount of New Adventures littering the dig bins. I spied a New Adventure is power sword and shield at one point which completely baffled me.
Masters of the Universe is of course, one of the brands that I was there to look for. As I was going through things, mostly looking for a spare figure that I could customize… I have a specific project in mind that I needed one for… I came across a four dollar Tri-Klops with a broken head. The visor was gone… But that’s fine. I’ve got aTri-Klops at home with thevisor intact. This one still had the harness on, and I made a mental note before I moved on. Throughout the day I’d see that same harness being sold alone for three dollars each. I ran back to that booth to grab the figure, scoring both my burn figure to customize and the missing harness for my vintage Kloppy.

He wasn’t the only one I got though… I scored a cheap Grizzlor for a pet project I wanted to try, one of the crazier customs I’ve seen, and I wanted one of my own. I grabbed him and blasted him with black spray paint to darken the fur before painting his skin blue to create CRITT-OR! (He actually looks perfectly at home between my two handmade critters in the library…)
 I did pass on a few things like a Talon fighter (THIS TIME…maybe next go), but what was intresting was I had one of those moments of clarity as I found a Blue Lion in a bin. He was beat up but still in pretty good shape (enough I could still restore it), and affordably priced. I held him and thought about it for a moment….”Do I REALLY want to get started down this path????” Buying him means I’d have to go fo the collection. The other four lions IN THIS SCALE (which probably wouldn’t be as cheap) as well as figures to ride in them….. I put him back.
Toyhio is where you go to find interesting stuff. Sometimes wierd things….I mean, where else are you going to encounter two bins stuffed full of Joker and Green lantern plushies respectively? Where else could you search through the endless shelves of toys and figures and cars and wierd THINGS and suddenly look up and spot the chaingun from Terminator 2?
I was wandering towards the back wall looking for He-Man accessories and Heroclix. (there was a booth with some cheap clix – but I still don’t understand what’s going on with this one DareDevil in a cape…..) and I always make a practice to check below the table. Not everyone goes there, and that’s where some of the stranger things lurk. I caught my breath… a strange Raggedy Ann style doll – but not Raggedy Ann. No, this one was ANNIE. Very strange. In one of the other chambers I spied a vintage car for the dolls that accompanied the 80’s film release (and let me tell, you, back in the day I was OBSESSED with that movie -even before I understood who Tim Curry or Carol Burnett were!) I couldn’t bring myself to pull the rigger on either (No idea where or how I’d display them and I’d hate for them to go in a basement crate when there might be someone here who would buy it and love it), but it was so fascinating to actually see these things.
In addition to spying that limo, way back in one of the other far corners I found what may have been my favorite treasure of the day. There in the middle of one of the tables was a hologram card of the Toxic Avenger (this particular one was from the cartoon, but nevertheless). It was such a ridiculous find that I couldn’t resist slapping a dollar down on the table and smiling like a maniac. You have my permission to be envious.
It was also a good day for me to find two Doctor Who figures. Number five and number seven. I just finished a project on my 3-D printer creating the 80s Tardis Console, but didn’t actually on any of the doctors who used it! My focus has traditionally been revival era figures and third doctor collection. I got a good price on five, and was happy enough to score 7 though without his hat. I’m gonna have to make one of those up with model magic or something. I almost pulled the trigger on an ace so seven would have a companion, but I was getting the feeling I was spending too much already!
No comics to speak of this time around, but I did encounter an interesting big bin of small figures – four for a dollar. I pulled a couple of cute trinkets for my younger daughter and Valentine’s Day out of there, but I also grabbed two Muppets. What looks like some sort of happy meal toy from Muppet treasure Island… Fozzie Bear in a barrel. Also what looks like a vinyl piece from one of those big collected boxes you occasionally see at places like the Disney store or the record store. It was a Walter from the Muppets movie a while back. A quarter is good enough for me to get him so that I can toss him up in my Muppet backstage, And make him turn around into a corner so that all the other Muppets can shun him. It’s childish, I know. But we ARE talking about toys.

Also a good day to grab chocolate covered pretzels and candy (not to mention a couple of Avenger plushies for the girls) for Valentine’s Day at one of the stands, as I wandered through the vast labyrinth of toys. I was shocked when I looked down at my watch and realized I’d been hunting for treasure through the endless aisles and corridors for nearly 3 hours. It’s such a great market place with an enormous amount of sensory overload… It’s enough to make you lose track of time. It’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy Toyhio and continue to brave the long drive out to the show.


Last week’s pulls (week of 2-9-22)

Of all the titles that DC could put out as black label, Suicide Squad actually makes the most sense. There’s been a lot of times during that original 80’s run where this title crept right up to the edge of mature readers territory… And quite frankly, the first Deadshot miniseries absolutely should’ve been mature. So I was definitely interested when I saw Suicide Squad Blaze.
It’s splintered off of the main continuity, doing it’s own thing, and it’s fine, because it’s not really focused on the squad we know.
The government has several doses of a new drug called blaze, that will give an ordinary person superpowers… The problem is it also kills them in about three months. However they have a threat that they just can’t handle on their own, so they go through Gen Pop looking for volunteers (That is, after some of the more regular members of the squad flat out refuse). So the story is generally told through the eyes of a lonely loser who stepped up because the girl he loves also volunteered. What does it matter if they’re gonna die in three months?
The mission goes poorly, in grand Suicide Squad tradition and that’s fun. It’s gorgeously drawn in that gritty photocopy style that always appeals to me. Along with our super powered experiments, we still have some familiar faces from the roster. Peacemaker is there because they’re still trying to make this a thing, and tie into the TV show. Harley is there, because she’s kind of become inextricably linked to the Suicide Squad over the years. We’ve also got king shark from the movie…Not quite so dumb as he is in the film, but not the super intelligent plotter that the comics have portrayed him as in the past. He mostly just fights for special privileges, it really just wants to call his Mom. Rounding out the team is Captain Boomerang, a personal favorite. Boomerang’s always been good as the amoral comic relief of the team… And always added an interesting dynamic. In a lot of ways his role is been usurped by Harley, but I’m always happy to see him whenever he shows up. Interesting, they’re drawing him to look a lot like John Simm. (You may remember him as my least favorite version of the master from Doctor Who, but really you should look up some of his other work. His early comedies like Human Traffic are brilliantly cynical in a year 2000 way. Reminds me a bit of Seth Rogen and a touch of Adam Sandler).

Harley for her part is interesting here. This isn’t a typical portrayal for her… In her own books she’s cute and sexy. She’s charming and funny, it’s a little cracked in a slightly homicidal way. In this black label story, they’re not trying to make her pretty. She’s an attractive enough girl at times, but she’s also dangerously insane. Her face contorts into crazed anger, and she’s genuinely a bit frightening. There’s a sociopath edge to her personality that we’re not used to seeing anymore. Gone is the quirky, cute girl Deadpool routine we’ve become so familiar with, replaced by a dangerous psychopath and I got to say… It’s refreshing. This is exactly the sort of character I want to see in Suicide Squad. I’m really happy with this book.
I picked up Batgirls number three. It’s actually turned into one of those tiles I look forward to each month now. We’ve got a kid on the street using Scarecrow schtick, fear gas and such. It’s a nice straightforward adventure, and just a fun chance to spend some time and hang out with Steph and Cassie.
Steph is one of those characters that can be effortlessly charming in the hands of most writers. She basically writes herself, and you can stick her into a variety of situation and costumes and have her come off well. (Quite frankly, that’s pretty much what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years) but Cassandra is more of a challenge. You need a good writer to really handle her well. She’s largely mute, and very withdrawn, except for her physical prowess. You can basically either turn her into a background character or a tank. That’s about all. I’ve never really connected with Cassie. Oh, there’s been moments… I seem to recall an issue of Cassie’s old Batgirl series where Barbara takes her on a cruise and chance of having to fight bad guys. There’s some good moments there, like when they’re at dinner, or describing how wearing a swimsuit makes her feel uncomfortable because of the way she reads the body language of everyone around her. The almost romance with Superboy peaked my interest and I didn’t go anywhere, and the way Batman fired her at one point did nothing for me. In the past They would try too hard with her when they try at all, like putting her in the classic Batgirl suit (“Look! She tripped on her high heels!” Bleh.), or portray her as quirky, walking around the Outsiders compound naked in front of people because she just didn’t care… None of it lands.
That’s actually what’s been so special about this book. Giving Cassie a foil to bounce off of helps develop her and draw out her personality. One of the strangest things to me was a dialog box where they describe Steph as her best friend. And attacking her best friend is obviously going to make her angry… That’s interesting. It’s interesting because I never really looked at Cassandra as someone who even had friends. Maybe Barbara, but she’s more of a mentor. Cassie with that sort of a relationship… The best friend… A typical teenager thing… I like it. It feels like growth.
Barbara Gordon is living her best life here too. When they rebooted her as bad girl in the new 52, she felt decidedly younger. I know she’s probably 19-ISH… the way she was in the silver age, but especially once we got to that Batgirl of Burnside thing in the rebirth era, she seriously looked and felt like she was a 16-year-old herself.
This Barbara feels more mature. She feels like a 30 something with the age and experience to really mentor these two girls (and I’d love to see that discussion between Babs and Bruce… About setting up basically the girls dorm of the Batman family, and him needing her to mentor them because there’s things that women need other women to teach them.). Barbara really feels like Oracle again here. And I gotta be honest, that was really her best destiny. I know that sounds ghoulish to say that her best, most ultimate form, was the ex superhero, paralyzed and trapped in a wheelchair, but Oracle really did more good with a greater reach and Batgirl ever did. Barbara Gordon had a greater maturity and depth in that era and it just makes her more interesting character rather than just a cute but derivative one. I like that I’m seeing some of that character in depth here, and all these elements together just make this a great book.
I had a friend in the Panels Comic Club mention to me that he may wait to get this in the trade… You can do that, but honestly, I don’t know how long this series is gonna last. After watching the untimely demise of the super sons, I’m honestly approaching this personally as a miniseries. If we get more than six issues, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If we get more than a year, I’ll be shocked. But, as one of the few new comics coming out that I’m really liking, I’m going to hang on and enjoy the ride.
Don’t be fooled by the cover of this  next book. Spider-Man (Neither Ben nor Peter) appear in this issue. Issue 88.bey is strictly a side story and I got to admit, I really wish they’d just done a separate issue – kind of the way they did with that Mary Jane and Black Cat story last month. It was just a better way of doing things, even if this team starts to become bigger players in the main title.
That’s all I have to say about this issue. I probably would have passed on this thing if I’d realized what it really was.
I picked up Secret X-Men on a whim. Mainline Marvel titles like the Avengers books or the X titles I like to dip my toe in every once in a while just to see if there’s anything worth reading. X-Men hasn’t been all that worthwhile for quite a long time now. The X titles are ugly preachy books with some disturbing ideas. It used to be that X-Men was solid superhero storytelling with a subtext about equality. It would bubble to the surface here and there, and frequently they would deal with things in metaphor. The problem is, metaphor isn’t good enough anymore and the current crop of writers have put the subtext in the foreground and frequently forget to write an adventure. You know how I describe large chunks of the CW shows as “attractive-people-standing-around-in-hallways-talking-about-their-feelings“tm? The X-Men comics are all that. And all the talk is very much “Look how diverse we are! Look how gay we are!“ (It’s strange actually, every new mutant created seems to be required to have some LGBT characteristics. Just being a mutant isn’t enough… But then again like I said, these people don’t understand metaphor anymore. Wierd. It’s a statistical unlikelihood and sure fire Darwinian path towards extinction by the way). The X-Men themselves have become full on segregationists living on an island only for mutants. It’s actually almost crossed over into  kind of racist territory… Like I said. These books have gotten ugly.
Secret X-Men jumped out at me in large part because of the lineup. It feels a lot like an X-Force variation. I always really enjoyed X-force, perhaps even more than its predecessor New Mutants. They managed to keep the relationships and chemistry very much intact here. One of the real pleasures of reading this book is watching sunspot and cannonball interact. It’s too old best friends just falling right back in the sink… It’s just Roberto and Sam, and it feels very genuine. That’s sort of male relationship where you can let down your guard a little bit and where you just know each other. We need to see more of these kind of friendships.
I like a lot of this team. Boom Boom and Banshee have always sort of been fan favorites and Strong Guy is a really fun character when he’s in the right hands. I’m actually a little disappointed that we don’t get more funny stuff with him, although there’s a bit of a whopper towards the end involving holding breath at a graveyard.
I’m also really enjoying these costumes. A lot of the X-Men redesigns have been hit or miss, but as far as this whole uniform looks goes, it’s a great take on it. The artist blends the aesthetic of the classic Xavier uniform with modern elements like the digital X and the more ribbed and leathery textures.
More importantly, it’s a genuinely fun book. Bobby is hitting a party and trying to impress people by telling them he’s the leader of the X-Men… But this backfires when Deathbird recruits him because she needs the X-Men’s help. Bobby then recruits a crack team of familiar faces… Mutants who didn’t qualify for membership in the current roster of the X-Men, and off they go on a spacey adventure. It’s good times and it feels like 90s X-Men to me (an era I’m particularly fond of). I’m not sure if I’m gonna stay with this book, but I’m definitely gonna pick up the next issue just to see where this goes.
By the way, I’m also sticking with Devil’s Reign. It’s a hard book to review, because it’s really one big six-issue story, but it’s been good. REALLY good. Gimmie a crossover like this with political intrigue, super villians, the Marvel universe heroes, and put Daredevil at the center for a change? Yeah. I’m really liking it. Can’t wait to finish it so I can really digest it and talk about the whole thing.


State of the Con 2022

I’ve been prepping for Toyhio this weekend, getting a want list ready and checking my comic database. Along with this, I have also been checking out the state of the comic con in general, trying to plan my schedule for the year.

It’s a new landscape on the convention circuit right now. It’s still ever shifting, but definitely not the same thing I am used to. Zipcon has canceled this year. Cleveland ConCoction has canceled for the third time, and I just heard from the show runner that Youngstown Comicon is also sitting things out again this year. There’s no word on Hall of Fame, Cleveland Comic Con  or the Lorain Comic and Toy Expo. But it’s possible those still might go on. There’s even some rumblings that dark Xmas might return, but all are iffy.

Lake Effect Comicon is gone. So are Dark X-fest, Geekfest and Woo-con. Retro Invasion looks like it might be dead as well. Akron Canton is changing both its name and it’s venue, and dropping the costume contest. That’s a shame, because it was the main thing keeping me driving out that far for a Harper show.

Of the ones that remain, there’s still challenges to navigate. Both Great Lakes Comic Con and RathaCon are requiring guests to be masked at all times. Quite frankly, I don’t want to drive several hours for a show that I’m just going to have to mask up for, so those are off the schedule this year. So are a number of the anime conventions in the area. A lot of these shows are requiring proof of vaccination. I have my card, and I AM fully Vaxxed, but I am not willing to “show my papers“ just to go into a convention or concert. That’s not a move I support.

So what’s left? Below is my tentative convention schedule. Where I’m going, and whether or not I’ll have Maddie accompanying me. There’s several new shows that we’re going to try out for the first time this year and I’m hoping it’ll be good. The big autograph shows, Horrorhound, Day of the Dead, and Steel City, look like they’re all still going, but none have posted any guests I’m interested in. We will be hitting the road with my buddy Mike for Horror Realm though. There’s a Halloween/Escape From New York alum showing up there, and I still need to get Tiffany Shepis on my Victor Crowley poster. Besides, I generally have fun
out, and the drive isn’t too brutal. Wasteland is still on the schedule as well, autograph prices have traditionally been more reasonable there, and it feels like one of my last strong holds… The last bastion of hope in the horror convention world LOL!

I only did about a dozen shows last year, and about a third of them were just marketplaces. I’m trying to include more genuine conventions this year, because I really do miss those gatherings and those kind of people. Still, this year’s list is not much longer than last years, and I’m not sure how that bodes for the future of the convention scene. In a marketplace that was already too crowded, the plague really just hastened the death of a lot of small start ups… That damnable Wizard World survived, but in a smaller format and with re-branding. I still worry that they’ll choke out the remainder of the small, intimate and friendly conventions I prefer. Still, it’s my hope that the ones that have survived the plague have proven themselves resilient enough to go on.

Here’s my current con schedule for this year.

(BTW, the three Westlake shows are all Harper shows – basically marketplaces rather than cons, but they’re so close to home that it’s still worth hitting if I have nothing better to do.)

Date Show City State Who
Mar-5 Horror Realm Pittsburg PA Matthew and Mike
Mar-13 Fantasticon Toledo OH Maddie and Matt
Mar-20 Cle Comic & Nostalgia Westlake OH Matthew
April 8-10 Cinema Wasteland Stronsville OH Matthew
May-15 Hazard Con Erie PA Maddie and Matt
May-28 Fanboy Expo Columbus OH Maddie and Matt
Jun-12 Pulp Fiction Westlake OH Matthew
Jun-25 Monster Bash ? Pittsburg PA Matthew
Jul-9 Mahoning Comic Con Youngstow OH Maddie and Matt
Jul-31 NEO Comicon N. Olmsted OH Maddie and Matt
Sep-17 Erie Comicon ? Erie PA Check covid regs
Sep-30 Cinema Wasteland Strongsville OH Matthew
Oct-2 Cle Comic & Nostalgia Westlake OH Matthew
Time to hit the road.




essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

Strip #211 on 2/11! how cool is that?


Curse of Robert

The curse of up Robert starts with someone hopping into car carrying a very familiar suitcase. A crooked cop has been paid to swipe it from the evidence locker. No one‘s gonna miss it anyhow, no one believes the fantastic story about the killer doll. We then cut to a dollmaker‘s room, parts splayed over the benches and shelves of partially made dolls. We get a bit of a prologue voiced over this, and it’s a bit of a foreshadowing of the toymaker that we’ll meet in the later sequels. For now, we shift to a young woman named Emily driving her car on country roads as the credits scroll. Her Destination is a World War II museum where she’s starting work as a cleaning assistant.

The manager gives her a tour, and this is where she meets Robert. He is an exhibit, cased behind glass. . It turns out that the museum was dead before he was put there, but now he’s a huge draw. Creepy things happen almost immediately – a baby doll and a carriage rolling out into the middle of the hall during Emily’s first night, things moving out of the corner of her eye, a handprint on the inside of Roberts class display , things like that. One of the security guys is indifferent, but the other, a hunky young guy named Kevin is wanting to check things out. He finds nothing. He’s a little sweet on our cleaning assistant Emily though.

The other security guard, the fat indifferent one, well Robert doesn’t like him very much. One night during his rounds in the dark, Robert expresses his displeasure. The cleaning managers next to get it, attacked while the hunky security guard makes time with the young cleaning assistant. Scotland yard is not amused. They’re convinced that the museum is just trying to stir up trouble, make the place look like it’s haunted so they can raise ticket prices… and that she is a suspect. Now it’s up to Emily and Kevin to prove that the doll is really the one committing the murders.
We get a nice bit of expositions covering the previous film as they do research… complete with photos of the characters in that first movie. Turns out that ultimately, Jenny, the mother, was convicted of Roberts murders. Good to know what happened in the aftermath of that film actually, a a reason to visit her in the asylum. It’s a nice bit of connective tissue reminiscent of what they did in Hellraiser three with Ashley Lawrence’s cameo. It turns out that the museum owner is a man named Amos Blackwood who she suspects is the brother of the evil housekeeper from the first movie.

Take note of that name by the way, you’ll be hearing it again.

Hunky boyfriend calls up the museum manager and blackmails him into showing up that night… claiming he has copies of the security camera footage. The manager obviously knows something’s up, and agrees to meet them both at 8 o’clock that evening.

Turns out, he’s not Amos Blackwood (He’s not? I wonder if the story got changed midway to accommodate the bookends), but he liked the cursed story and decided to lean into it to Mark at the museum… No matter what the rest. It’s a weird confrontation, and of course he double crosses them. Unfortunately for him, Robert is free and roaming the museum, with menacing POV shots and low angles. Robert looks very happy as he stabs the museum owner in the leg, and it gives our heroes a chance to flee. Museum owner gets off a shot, and hits hunky boyfriend in the leg, slowing them down. The doors are locked, and Robert isn’t satisfied with just one victim. He slashes the throat of the gimp boyfriend, and begins to stalk Emily. It’s up to her now to run and hide and survive until morning (and the cops) comes.

The film is book ended with more shots of the doll makers workshop. We pan past more fake eyeballs and doll parts and slowly reveal the old toy maker. This is Amos Blackwood. This is the man who built Robert… it’s a surprisingly long sequence, running a good six minutes or so and really seems to be there for no other reason then to pad out the film and reach feature length, and perhaps to set up the later films.

The film was mostly shot on location at the 1940s Swansea Bay Museum in Crymlyn Burrows, Swansea, Wales. The Swansea Bay Museum acted as their stand–in for East Martello Museum in Key West, where Robert is actually displayed. Some employees there have claimed to have experienced unusual activity when in the presence of the doll. Others  have even claimed Robert attacked them. It’s notable that when they built the display for the movie doll, they included a sign that says “please ask Roberts permission before taking his photo”. This is real. In the Key West museum, visitors are told to ask the doll for permission before snapping a picture. They say anybody who dares to take a picture without the doll’s consent  is cursed for all eternity.  The actual museum displays numerous letters from people asking Robert to remove the curse he placed on them.

This will be the last we see of Robert in present day, and it’s kind of a shame. The character works well in modern settings as a haunted doll with a history, but from here out, the series would look backwards rather than forwards.


essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


What we watched on 2-2-22!

Superman and Lois is getting a little heavy. The mayoral race is turning into dirty politics, and they’re gonna start going after Lana’s daughter, her emotional problems and suicide attempt, but even worse… It looks like her husband has a secret from his drinking days. It’s all about to get very ugly.

Equally ugly is the cult leader who is coming for Lois, and who brainwashed her younger sister Lucy. I don’t like this version of Lucy, neurotic and spiteful instead of happy-go-lucky and flighty. It’s all some heavy stuff, watching these characters that we like being ground down a bit. I’m sure it’s going to end well in the end, but it’s not quite as much fun as I would normally like. John Henry’s down as well, having taken a beating from Bizarro. This is a really interesting thing. They are doing really good stuff with Bizarro. We tend to forget just how dangerous he really is because we’re so used to him being the clown. But he’s every bit as terrifying as any kind of Superman gone wrong. I’m looking at the title of next weeks episode and I suspect we’re about to see Steel’s daughter in her own suit. I was fairly confident that was gonna happen once they brought her in, and now I’m certain of it. Things like this, and Jordan experimenting with his superpowers, asking his grandfather to train him in secret, it’s all really compelling character development and I’m enjoying a lot of that kind of stuff. 

Ultimately, this feels very much like a transition episode. Not necessarily filler, it’s full of stuff that we need to know going forward, but it doesn’t stand on its own as a singular adventure. We’re very much into a proper territory right now, but, it’s interesting to see where they’re going with this, and I’m eager to see how it resolves.
By the way, is anybody watching The book of Boba Fett? I haven’t tuned in yet… Honestly, it’s one of those I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it deals for me, but this week really wasn’t was it? This week was at least 60% an episode of the Mandalorian. Because of that, I fired up Disney+ to watch and, wow. This is everything I could’ve hoped for. There was talk when Mandalorian season two ended that we’d get a Christmas special just to touch base with Mando and Baby Yoda. That Christmas special never materialized, and I suspect that script got rolled into this episode. That’s fine. This is actually the Star Wars that I want. We get to see Luke training Baby Yoda, and some of the Jedi philosophy comes into play as well… Culminating in a pretty heart wrenching cliffhanger. This is good stuff, and a big part of me wonders if they’re just gonna leave us hanging. I bet they are until Mando season three.
Prodigy finished up it’s two parter nicely last week as well. Our young crew of rogues recaptured the Protostar and foiled the plans of the Diviner….or did they? Evil Robot Dude tm is terrifying as ever and while they were trying to find a way to take back thier ship, Dal and company managed to free the minors/slaves and give them the gift of communication by some jiggery pokery with the universal translator in Dal’s comm badge. Also we get a punch the air moment with that darling little catian from the first episode as she wreaks an adorably savage vengeance on the security drones.
Most importantly, everyone gets a moment here. This cast just works together really well and no one gets overshadowed. It’s good stuff.
I had thought this was it for this season, but according to TrekCulture, we’ve got more coming later this year. We ended on a perfect cliffhanger, back in the alpha quadrant with the REAL Admiral Janeway detecting the warp signature of the protostar and setting off to find it – hopefully to rescue her former first officer Chakotay. You know, one of the amazing things about Prodigy is how much it actually makes me CARE about the characters from Voyager (not that I hated the show or anything, but it didn’t keep me engaged past the third season and was around the time in the 90’s that I dropped off). I’m excited for it’s return later this year!

You know what else I’m excited for? March 3rd, and the return of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!
Stay Tuned.


Last Week’s Pulls (2-2-22)

Suicide Squad #12 looks like they’re still trying to exploit any possible synergy between last summers movie and the current Peacemaker series on HBO Max. We have Rick Flag assembling his own squad, consisting of Peacemaker and Bloodsport to take down Amanda Waller. In the meantime, Waller has the actual squad fighting a battle on Earth three. And that’s fine, because quite frankly, as long as they keep Ambush Bug around, I’m still sticking with this title.

Back in the Marvel versus DC days of the 90s, I remember constantly saying that the one real versus match I wanted to see what does Ambush Bug versus Marvel’s Slapstick. Well, this issue is about as close as I’m gonna get to that! Buggy describes their opponents as Thunderbolts – referring to the Marvel title. Well, he doesn’t see the entire word, he explains that he’s prohibited from finishing that sentence for legal reasons. It’s great stuff. Honestly  though, they feel less like Marvel ‘s Thunderbolts and more like one of those big teams of one-note villains with two word names that Rob Leifield would create for every other Youngblood issue back in the heyday of Image comics. (you can say what you want about Leifield, but when it comes to character creation, no one’s more prolific than him. And very few people have the aptitude to squeeze as many characters on a page as he does… while obscuring all their feet at the very same time!) Ambush Bugs opponent is a clown faced jokester with lots of pouches. He feels a lot like Slapstick, and the matchup goes almost exactly how I expected. I know, I know, this isn’t even the best storyline, it’s basically just background gags, but like ambush bug says, I do skim through this book every month just to look for his bits. I’m just so happy to see him in print again, and in what has traditionally been one of my favorite titles.

I also decided to pick up Daredevil, the Woman Without Fear this week. This has been a fairly good Elektra story, expanding on some themes that we were getting last year’s in Daredevil. It almost feels like they’re running the series because there were some side quests that they never managed to quite get around to in the main book. That’s not surprising, because despite the fact that Elektra‘s female Daredevil was on the cover of every issue, her arc was really more of a b storyline than it was anything else. I read that run, mostly because I’m a big fan of prison stories. Unfortunately, the premise, that the court would separate the superhero identity from the main identity, and that Matt could go to jail as a daredevil… It’s ridiculous on its face. It’s such a bizarre and implausible concept that it taints everything else. It also doesn’t help that the story had been done better 15 years ago in at Brewbakers Devil in Cell Block D, or that the middle of that run had to take a break for a couple months to participate in the company wide carnage storyline… A pause that killed their momentum dead stop.

But then again, there’s the real elephant in the room. See, this idea of Elektra taking over for Daredevil might have worked better in a different climate, Especially considering we just had the “We are all Daredevil” bit right before Matt goes to jail. It could’ve led in smoothly, with her trying to prove herself to him and prove that she can work with his ethics and his methods. But in this current era where characters are constantly gender swapped it’s become passé, it’s predictable and just tiresome. It reeks of being done for political reasons rather than an organic evolution in the story.

But that’s not the real problem.

See, Elektra is one of the worlds deadliest assassins. She’s the perfect ninja, and an amazing martial artist. In terms of skill, strictly speaking, she’s better than Matt. Becoming gender swapeds Daredevil? This is actually a demotion. It’s a step down, and really, they (the writers) know it. Reading through the woman without fear miniseries, we’re an issue three, and I don’t think they’ve actually referred to her as a daredevil ones. And they shouldn’t, she’s Elektra. She’s already an empowered, unique, highly skilled hero… And anything else really just takes away from her character.

I like the suit, but take the DD off of it and lose the blunted sais. They look remarkably stupid. If you’re going to use a stabby sword, just use the stabby sword. Put the points back on them, remove the DD, and let’s just call her Elektra. Just admit who she is, instead of trying to make this gender swap work. She already is somebody. She already is a name character… And considering that Daredevil isn’t that crazy high profile, I would be willing to bet that Elektra has just as much name recognition is Daredevil. We don’t all need to be Daredevils, after all, isn’t diversity our strength?

We don’t need lady Daredevil, we need Elektra!



essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


Metal Murder and Music Videos

Metal Murder 3-D was an entry on Armstrong’s IMDb that perplexed me. I was able to find an album by an Australian hard-core band that he works with, but not a film. It’s short film to go with it. That short film is sometimes referred to as metal murder 3-D, and other times it’s referred to as Alice in Zombieland.

Alice in Zombieland starts off with a girl in a cage, being pulled out by some men in black, then A film burn under credits. You may recognize Emma Wilson from Some of Armstrong’s other films, and the 70s exploitation style in the credits is charming.

Alice is in a blood stained hospital bed, surrounded by curtains and dark lighting. Zombie action starts immediately, as the undead begin to rise from the other beds.
For such a short feature, they put some real time and effort into making this hard look terrifying, both individually and as a group.

Alice screams and runs, fleeing zombie doctors and undead and corpses in fashionably cute corsets. In what appears to be the cafeteria, entrails line the buffet, and zombies pop out of nowhere.

Alice bludgens one zombie with a phone, and the out of order message is a really nice touch. The next-door leads her to the kitchen… Where a zombie screams at her. She screams back and starts throwing things, ultimately delivering a beat down the fryer. It’s amazingly awesome.

Ultimately, the entire thing is just an action set piece. There’s no dialogue, on your story. It’s Alice fighting her way through zombies, and finding her strength… As well as a really nice gun ultimately shooting her way through to the end credits.

What’s fun about this, is it a great way to introduce yourself to Armstrongs work and style. You can see a lot of what you’re going to get from his feature films in the short, which was designed to accompany kid crushers metal murder 3-D album. Absolutely worth the 10 to 12 minutes that it takes to sit through. While you’re at it, it’s time to go over to the Strongman pictures website to check out some of his music videos. Armstrong has worked with a variety of artists and shows a dramatic range in both concepts and execution. There’s an eerie one room haunted steampunk feel to Karly Jewll’s Dancing with the Devil. But then we get kind of country in Jenna Dwyers dodged a bullet, the feeling of orange filters at early morning in an old hotel room. Jenna would go on to do the theme track for Armstrong’s Fight like a Girl… a much simpler music video in a wrestling ring, but even that’s a vast difference from a video for her song Coma, a much rockier song in a dark Mad Max like warehouse.  Then there’s The Mercy Kills who Armstrong literally puts into a comic book for their song Supersonic.  Nathalie Gelle does in a uninspired cover of Vacation by The Go-Go’s, but Armstrong cleverly keeps you off balance with a blast of cartoon on green screen footage. The scrapbook pop-up feel suits the feel they’re going for. Kid Crusher delivers hardcore nightmares to the girl next-door over a television while a strobe light blazes behind them. As he screams in front of a white background, the woman stares into the screen, hypnotized. On the other hand, in the music video for Tied, they sing Reasons Why over a stop-motion fantasy. Stop-motion is a favorite of Armstrongs, and he has an entire section of his website devoted to it. In Long Way home for Ablaze, Armstrong manages a black and white road trip through the rocking chops. It’s a mixture of happy and melancholy that’s tough to pull off.

This is just scratching the surface, but absolutely a great résumé and reason enough to definitely be checking out the rest of his films.




essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday


Catching up! Prodigy, Superman and The Flash

Do you know, I was just complaining last week about this weird aversion modern Trek has to uniforms. In Picard we don’t get them much at all, and even in Discovery they seem to be out of uniform as often as they’re in. And then there’s the strange approach that Secret Hideout (the company that currently produces Star Trek for Paramount) has taken… Different uniforms for different series. Not necessarily for different ships – the Enterprise in Discovery has red yellow and blue uniforms where is Discovery was still wearing thier plain blue… And so was Starfleet command. But then Lower Decks has their unique uniforms that don’t match what we see on the Titan or in flashbacks. It’s all strange and quite frankly, offputting to me. Still, I’ve been wondering what exactly the uniforms would look like in Prodigy. When all the characters showed up and pretty much just wore street clothes through the entire thing, I was a little disappointed. At least Jayneway looked familiar. But I do recall making that comment about wanting to see more uniforms.

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

I’m not sure how Secret Hideout’s Star Trek has sunk from Discovery, which in its first season, had some of the best looking uniforms I’ve ever seen (I really do like those blue and gold costumes, with different trim denoting rank just as much as the pips on the arrowhead insignia). I even like how they translated that into classic series uniforms for the Enterprise crew. But since then, everything is really gone wonky. The uniforms in Star Trek Picard are the worst sort of fanfiction, and Discovery has turned their uniforms basically into fluffy pajamas. In fact, so has Prodigy. Everything’s pajamas.

They’re weird. Asymmetrical with a very high waist extending well into the abdomen. The white and gray color scheme is actually a bit reminiscent of the motion picture, which is not a story you want to be evoking. You’re still trying to go with the shoulder motif, but it feels more like those sloppy gray jumpsuits that we would see extras wearing anytime the next generation crew beam down to a science lab on any given episode of the week. I’m not digging them, and they feel uninspired to me. There’s some talk that they could change again though – that these are kind of “experimental” uniforms 9and comm badges too) because it’s an experimental ship. Dan and Kevin Hageman explained in an interview with Inverse;

“Since the USS Protostar is an experimental starship, we felt it gave us some freedom to create our own uniform design, as long as it fit alongside the uniforms of this era. We, [executive producer] Ben Hibon, and our design team spent a lot of time discussing the badge and uniforms. We had to balance the style of our series, while also recognizing these kids aren’t actually anywhere close to being Starfleet Officers, which is why we went for a stripped-down design.”

On the other hand, the series itself continues to be good. We’re heading back for a showdown with the big bad, and they left us on a cliffhanger… Predictably. I can’t complain though, the twists keep coming and in an earnest way this genuinely feels like Star Trek. It outweighs the bad uniforms. If I have one complaint, it’s a moment where the purple captain Dal complains about heading back to base down the big bad guy. “After all we’ve been through, after all we’ve done… I don’t wanna lose you“ he says half referring to albino Gywn and half referring to the rest of the crew.

After all you’ve done? It’s been eight episodes. One of those was a two-parter that introduces all of you. One of those was another two-parter, and one of the other episodes pretty much takes place just on the holiday. You guys have had four adventures, tops. That’s hardly “all we’ve been through“ territory. I could see him making this kind of a common after a full 20 episode season, but it’s been eight!

Still, we’ve built up enough interest and intrigue here, and I’ve got real high hopes for a second season. Nothing ever seems to get canceled over in the Star Trek department of Paramount right now, and this, this is actually good for a change. I can’t wait to see how they resolve that this week.

Superman and Lois is back as well. It’s another one that I was vaguely aware starting up again, but haven’t gotten a chance to sit down and watch. We’re three episodes in, so not hard to catch up on over a Saturday afternoon.

One of my friends told me he’d heard it was getting really melodramatic this season. Well, it’s a CW show. It’s gonna be like that. Actually, I think what I’ve noticed more than anything else, is how predictable this season has been so far. After a good season opener which really feels more like the resolution for all of last year… I could watch this one episode and have closure for the series… It’s easy to see a couple of things. Lana is going to run for mayor, Jordan’s girlfriend Sarah cheated on him while she was at camp, and there’s a monster in the mine which is connected to the seizures Superman’s having. Also, Steel and his daughter Natalie are going to end up bunking with the Kents in Smallville.

By the end of the third episode, I had pretty much been proven right on every point. That’s not to say that the series has gone downhill, it just feels very average this year. I’m not having that ear piercing squeals of delight at the end of each show as I was last year, but then again, “average” on this series is actually still better than “great” on a lot of other CW DC properties.

I’m rolling my eyes a little bit at the fact that Sarah cheated on Jordan with another girl… We gotta get that forced tokenized diversity in there! Even if it means changing up a character who previously hadn’t shown any indications of same-sex attraction. I’m going to be very annoyed if they go through the predictable route and have her together with John Henry’s daughter Natalie by the end of this season. Nevertheless, I suspect that’s where this is going. I also didn’t like the little dig at the US at the beginning of episode one. Yes, I understand Superman’s a citizen of the world, but there’s always been a balance between that and Truth Justice and the American Way.

(from Superman #713, July 2011)

It’s all small stuff, they’re not pushing it in our face, and 10 years ago, it have been easier to just kind of let fly by. But with the generally woke direction that most CW shows go, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop here, and I’m hoping that’s not it. This is still the Best Superman we’ve gotten in well over a decade, and still possibly the best Lois Lane ever. It’s really good to see Lois and Clark dealing with parents all the issues, teenage boys and raging hormones, break ups and high school drama. And amid all that, seeing them admit to their own insecurities and doubts. Still the best superhero show on the CW, and a really great version of Superman. Looks like we’ve got a very interesting big bad this year too. I know they were kind of trying to fool us into thinking that thing in the mine was going to be Doomsday, and that suit was dead on. Unfortunately, IMDb ruined the identity for me about 30 minutes early when I went to look up the name of one of the actors. Aargh!

Last but not least, The Flash is back. Something that was interesting last year was just how much we weren’t talking about this year’s crossover in my social circles. My friends actually made a point to mention it’s weird how there’s no build up for Armageddon, no hype, nobody seems to care.

What’s interesting is, this really isn’t a proper crossover anyhow. It helps if you go in understanding this. What Armageddon is is a Flash miniseries. This is absolutely based on the Flash, and on his current team. Cisco Ramon seems to finally be gone for good but we’re getting plenty of other cameos.

And that’s the thing. While we do actually get a pretty full episode with Ray Palmer A.k.a. the Atom, Alex Danvers literally phoned in her cameo in for the next episode. It’s a head and shoulder shot on a video screen for a couple of minutes while she does some research for the team. Black Lightning is a little better, probably spending an entire day shooting in the hall of justice along with Barry. But really, if you’re looking for one of those epic events like we got with Crisis, you’re gonna be disappointed. in fact, if you’re even expecting one of those fun one-note crossovers like Arrow vs. The Flash or Barry showing up on Supergirl….no. It’s not really even that. These are walk-ons.

If on the other hand, you remember that this is just a Flash miniseries, you’ll do fine. The format actually works really well for The Flash. The series, even in its eighth season is keeping up to the kind of average feel it had last year. It’s not spectacular, but it didn’t run out of gas the way I thought it would. It’s actually nice to see everybody again, and especially nice to spend some time with Brandon Routh playing the Atom. Watching Ray and Barry pall around during the first episode just feels right. It feels like an issue of Justice League or a comic book where they just happen to slip a guest star in. That may be one of the things that we’ve missed about some of these characters. The fact that it’s not so much that they’re team flash, or team arrow, or legends, but rather that they are all part of the whole… DC… Super friends…family… Thing. It’s also enjoyable to see Vincent van Gogh from Doctor Who chewing the scenery as a big CGI version of Despero. The costume is a little weird, but the face is dead on.
Is it just me though, or did they cut the budget this year? The CGI third eye on the Despero‘s forehead seems off and cheap. It often feels like they’re having a hard time tracking it and keeping it in the right place. Perhaps it’s just because the eye itself moves and looks around, but either way it gives the impression that the CG overlay is off. It’s distracting. Fortunately, Despero isn’t a front and center most of the time, with this adventure focusing very squarely on team flash and their own investigation.

Episode four is probably where we get the closest to the feel of a real crossover. Barry finds himself in an alternate future, where the team includes Batwoman and Alex Danvers, back for a more meatier role. It’s a flashpoint, or rather a “reverse flashpoint“ created by the Reverse Flash. The end result is he and Barry have changed places with Barry being the villain and him being the hero, and also the team is shuffled into different characters now. It also features the return of Damien Darhk, but really, recurring villains don’t exactly make for a satisfying crossover reunion. And this is anything but a reunion. Not only is it that woman, it’s the new Ryan Wilder Batwoman, not the version played by Ruby Rose that the team had previously associated with. It’s an alternate universe, so I guess it can make sense, but we really don’t have any connection to this character in this contex, and Alex? Well she’s really just a friend of a friend at best. Sure, she attended Barry’s wedding, but it was just as Kara’s plus one. She makes sense as somebody that they happen to know in the DEO doing them a favor, but it’s part of the team,… Let’s just say I don’t feel like we’re getting the A-list anymore.

It doesn’t really matter though, they’re essentially background characters. There are obstacles for Barry to get around as he and Damien Darhk do their best to restore the previous version of reality… Something that will not only save Joe West, but also Damien‘s daughter.

That’s interesting… I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The rest of the heroes though, you could’ve plugged in any one of the random Legends or characters from outside the Arrowverse – Doom Patrol, swamp thing, Stargirl… And the story would’ve basically played out the same. However, that woman really needs the ratings boost and the CW is still trying to pretend that Supergirl didn’t stink for the last few seasons. I get the impression that that’s what these particular pics were all about. That, and the fact that there aren’t enough lesbians in The Flash.

Tom Cavanagh however, is a welcome return. He slides right back into the role, and feels like family. You almost forget that he quit the series halfway last year. I’m glad to see him back, and to be fair, it’s kind of nice to see him stick around for more than one episode.

Barry rights the world here, but we still have episode five to go… And this installment is really a glorified epilogue. I guess star on this one is Mia, daughter of Green Arrow, and taking up his mantle in the future. She’s here to kill Reverse Flash and find her brother. So we get 42 minutes of will-they-won’t-they, and of all the episodes, this one feels the most like filler. That’s something all the crossover stories have, they tend to stretch themselves out just a tad too long, and this one is no exception. On the other hand, it’s a nice time visiting with familiar faces, and like I said, I’m really happy to see Cavanaugh stick around for just a little bit longer. The story is one part crossover, one part filler, and one part set up for when Mia inevitably returns later on in the season. I don’t really mind that, she feels like she belongs here. It’s an interesting legacy though I’ll admit, for me, she doesn’t quite radiate Ali‘s presence yet. I felt Oliver‘s participation in this crossover farmer keenly during the fight between Flash and Black Lightning back in the hall of justice. Flash crashes through the glass case where all these green arrow suit is capped, and his gaze just falls on the bow, as it lays there on the floor. It’s a poignant moment and a reminder that Green Arrow is always with us.

For his part, Barry is very well suited to take over Ollie’s place as the elder statesman of the arrow verse. It’s a good role for him, and if this miniseries does anything it proves that the show still has some life in it. All the characters have really fallen into place and come into their own. Chester has evolved beyond being just Black Cisco, and Iris‘s assistant just feels natural by her side at the Central City Citizen. I almost feel like this team is firing on all cylinders again, probably thanks to having enough time to ramp up this year and execute a story properly, rather than the truncated and strange schedule that the plague afforded us last year. Of course, we only get these five episodes, and the series goes back into hibernation through January and February. The good thing is, the miniseries format actually kind of suits The Flash now this far in, and it also makes for an easily digestible binge watch over the weekend. It’s actually got me looking forward a bit to see what they do next month.

There was something else though that struck me this weekend as I caught up on my DC shows. It’s in the back of my mind with Stargirl as well… Which I’m hoping to go back and catch up on this coming weekend. A theme that I’m noticing here, is fatherhood. There is an immense focus on fatherhood and how necessary fathers are. I’m not saying that it’s completely new, we’ve always had a kicking around with Joe West, but I feel a renewed emphasis on it right now. Not just with the inherent nature of Superman and Lois, but also the relationship between Lana‘s husband Kyle and their daughter Sarah… Buying an old car for them to fix up – a father daughter project.

It’s in Stargirl‘s relationship with her stepfather. This guy, not just taking on the role of father, but mentor. It’s tough enough being a dad, but raising a superhero? And they treat it with such respect. He’s not just a bumbling goof, he’s a little dorky, but he also knows stuff. He’s also right.

Moreover, the last two episodes of the flash were all about fatherhood. All about Damien Darhk, a villain, teaming up with a hero because it meant that he could save his daughter. It was the Absolute anguish on her face when she just got one moment to see him as they both passed through realities. Heck, it was even Team Flashes investigation into Joe West death that really allowed them to solve the greater mystery of Armageddon. There’s really an unusual emphasis on fatherhood that I’m seeing in this last 18 months or so on The CW, and I like it. I’m hoping I see more of it.

Stargirl next week? Maybe?