Saturday, March 05, 2022

My Revelations

I want to talk about "Masters of the Universe: Revelation." But I can't. Not yet. Because as I made my way through Part 2 of the series a few weeks months ago, I figured out why it wasn't quite clicking with me. And in order to talk about that, I'm going to have to tell a story. 

Way back in 1998, my eighth grade English/Language Arts teacher, the late great Mr. McKissick, assigned us a project: Write a pitch for a TV series. I'm sure it will surprise you to learn that I was just as much of a dork-ass nerd at 14 as I am now, so naturally my pitch was...
The words "The Power of GRAYSKULL" written in way too many Windows 95 fonts.

"The Power of Grayskull," a weekly hour-long animated series that would serve as a sequel to the original He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, while also introducing the adventures of He-Ro, the hero of Preternia, who fought King Hiss long before the time of He-Man. "The Power of Grayskull" was designed as a kind of anthology series, where each hour-long block would include two to three shorter stories following one of the three main casts, with the Sorceress and the Book of Living Spells as a framing device.

It's worth remembering that in 1998, reviving a cancelled cartoon felt considerably more outlandish than it does today. There were a handful of soft-sequel reboots like "Beast Wars" and "Extreme Ghostbusters" (and "The New Adventures of He-Man" a few years earlier), but they rarely had much connection to their predecessors, for obvious reasons. 

To cast this series, I relied heavily on the original casts, with John Erwin and Melendy Britt reprising their roles as He-Man and She-Ra, respectively, and I filled in the rest of the roles as best I could with the information available on the pre-IMDb Internet. 

But not every character I wanted to use had a consistent voice actor in the original series, and not every voice actor was still around (RIP, Linda Gary). So to flesh out the cast, I looked to other prominent voice actors (i.e., the cast of "Beast Wars"). And when I exhausted that resource, I pulled a "Gargoyles" and filled in the rest with actors from "Star Trek."

In the end, I think I made some ambitious choices (Leonard Nimoy as King Hiss? Sure!), some inspired choices (Nana Visitor and Dana Delaney as Evil-Lyn and Teela? Sounds good!), some choices so on-the-nose that even a Wizard Magazine Casting Call would consider them lazy (Brent Spiner as Roboto? Didn't have to think too hard about that one, did you?), and some really, really ill-considered choices (Jennifer "Kes" Lien as the Sorceress? Oh honey, no). 

Oh! And of course I included Mark Hamill...as Tung Lashor and Twistoid.

I even started writing a pilot script, which I guess would have been one of my earliest pieces of He-Man fanfic. It's clearly an attempt to be a more mature take on the characters, beginning on the eve of Prince Adam and Princess Adora's 25th birthday, with Adora and her OTP Sea Hawk expecting twins. Adam and Teela are in a romantic relationship, and Skeletor returns after a long absence to an Evil-Lyn who is infatuated with him since he magically transformed her hate into love. 

So. Spoilers for "Masters of the Universe: Revelation" follow.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Good Riddance to 2021

Let's do a year-end roundup! Every year, I feel like I remember less and less of what media I consumed, and the fact that I haven't set foot in a movie theater since January of 2020 doesn't help. So consider this list less a "best of" and more a "most memorable of the stuff I got around to." 

Best Comics
  • The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit, and others: with the caveat about the artist being a gross bigot, this series really went out with a bang this year. 
  • Power Pack: Outlawed by Ryan North, Nico Leon, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Travis Lanham: a really fun and smart comic about my favorite young super-team, which deals with the "why don't superheroes use their powers to solve real-world problems?" question in a more innovative way than Bruce Wayne cutting checks or Superman going to a climate protest.
  • Kent State by Derf Backderf, technically released in 2020 but I read it this summer. An absolutely infuriating exploration of a tragic injustice, the causes of which have not been addressed in any way whatsoever. 
  • The Nice House on the Lake by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, & Andworld Design: Between this, Batman, DC vs. Vampires, and Something is Killing the Children, Tynion has kind of had the best year ever. 
  • The Avengers by Jason Aaron, Javier Garrón, Ed McGuinness, Aaron Kuder, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Sinclair, David Curiel, Matt Hollingsworth, Rachelle Rosenberg, Cory Petit, and others: I know this series is somewhat controversial, but month in and month out it's the kind of wild, over-the-top action I want from a team like the Avengers. 
  • The 6 Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton by Kyle Starks & Chris Schweizer: Shocking, I know, but Starks and Schweizer, individually and as a team, have yet to miss in my experience. This series was fantastic. Read it if you haven't. 
  • Superman and the Authority by Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano, and others: Morrison somehow manages to cram more good ideas into four issues than most writers manage in three times that. One of the few comics this year that consistently left me wanting more. 
  • Eat the Rich by Sarah Gailey, Pius Bak, Roman Titov, & Cardinal Rae: Gailey is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors, and this series helps to illustrate why. When most novelists turn to comics, they have a tendency to struggle with the medium a little, over-narrating or failing to remember it's a visual medium. Gailey and Bak, however, do some seriously innovative things, in service of a story that's interesting, relevant, and breezing right along. 
  • Captain America Infinity Comic by Jay Edidin and Nico Leon: Jay shows that he isn't just an X-pert on the X-Men with this X-cellent turn on a timely Captain America story. 
  • Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama: Continues to be the most gorgeous book I read on a regular basis, with a more interesting and original take on the "kids at magic school" concept than certain other popular series I could name. Over the last few volumes, the centering of disability in the narrative has become significant and fascinating. 
  • It's Jeff Infinity Comic by Kelly Thompson & Gurihiru: Best comic of the year, finpaws down.
Best Books
  • Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire: This might be the only book I read this year that was actually published in 2021, but when a new Wayward Children book drops, it moves to the top of the TBR pile. This one was fantastic because they're all fantastic. 
  • Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu: A fairy tale for the #MeToo era that frequently drops lines which feel like they should be on the poster for the movie. The one real drawback to this one is that we don't spend enough time on the protagonist's sisters. 
  • The Escape Room by Megan Goldin: A bunch of rich jerkwads get put in a deathtrap for revenge (and class war) reasons. It's not exactly what I wanted it to be (moar deathtraps pls) but it's solid.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Hot take: this book is great. Just a bunch of people who are so rich and sheltered that they have no idea how not to be awkward and overdramatic, and it was shockingly relatable. 
Best Movies

One of my goals for 2022 is to actually keep track of the things I watch (on Letterboxd) the way I do for books & comics. Since I don't actually remember everything I watched this year, I'm restricting this list to the stuff that actually did come out in 2021. So, uh, it's going to be short, because unless it came out on streaming or home video, I didn't see it. 
  • Mortal Kombat: A lot of people complained that this movie didn't have a fighting tournament, and I guess that's legitimate, but it found multiple opportunities to force two people to fight like they were limited to two dimensions of motion, and that's kind of amazing? This was exactly the level of stupid fun and special effects that I wanted from a Mortal Kombat movie. All it was missing for me was the "toasty" guy.
  • Gunpowder Milkshake: The second film I've watched that could be dismissively called "John Wick but with a woman," and the better of the two (sorry, Peppermint). It's a good, fun action movie that never takes itself too seriously. 
  • The Suicide Squad: Speaking of not taking itself too seriously. I'll never quite manage to accept characters from Detective Comics Comics dropping f-bombs, and there was an unnecessary amount of gore in this one for me, but I enjoyed it otherwise. If nothing else, it captured a lot of what I feel like the Suicide Squad should be: bad people doing bad things for bad reasons, but it all kind of comes out okay and the real villain is imperialism?
  • Black Widow: Better than I expected! Kind of a shame we won't be seeing any more of Natasha.
  • Dune: I also read Dune this year and enjoyed both the book and the movie reasonably well. But I found them both, if you'll excuse the accidental pun, kind of dry. Gorgeous, though. 
Best Songs

If I'm bad at keeping track of the new movies I've watched, I'm terrible about music. I don't know what came out this year, pretty much all I know is what I bought ("Book" by They Might Be Giants, have not listened to it yet) and what came up on Spotify. As far as I can tell, there's no way to sort my Liked Songs by release date. 
  • "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" by Brian David Gilbert: It's probably a shame that, in a year where ABBA dropped their first new album in decades, I spent a lot more time listening to Brian David Gilbert covering ABBA songs from the perspective of horror movie characters. This may be the only adaptation of Frankenstein I've ever encountered that acknowledges the creepy sister-wife dynamic. 
  • "Big Big Friend" by Cheekface: I discovered Cheekface this year, and while "Big Big Friend" isn't quite as fun a jam as "I Only Say I'm Sorry When I'm Wrong Now," it's still pretty great. I don't know how to describe Cheekface; the best I've got is "halfway between Cake and The Presidents of the United States of America" but that just feels really incomplete. 
  • "Build a B*tch" by Bella Poarch: Somehow this didn't make it into my Spotify wrapped playlist, despite the fact that I listened to it like three dozen times this year. I just love the nonchalant attitude Poarch has here, and I'm very interested to hear her next single. 
  • "Haunted Mansion" by Demi Adejuyigbe as Ray Parker, Jr.: Not just the best song I heard this year, but a song that practically became a belief system for me. I have never been so happy to have a song stuck in my head for weeks on end.
  • Other things I listened to and liked but didn't listen to enough to have a take on: the new Halsey album, the new ABBA album, some of Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, & Ariana Grande's new stuff, Orville Peck's "Fancy," Lizzo & Cardi B's "Rumors," and apparently a ton of stuff that came out in 2016-2018 but is totally new to me. 
And that's the end of 2021, and the start of 2022. Coming Soon: My thoughts on "Masters of the Universe: Revelation."