Riverdale and Sabrina

December 12, 2017 0

You’ve heard me talk about Riverdale on the podcast. It never fails to astound me that comics which amused me only slightly as a child, and didn’t amuse me at all as a teen have now become cutting edge phenomena. Consider the following.

Archie Comics has undergone a cutting edge renaissance, albeit one might argue that they are merely peripherally the same comic. In 2015, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples modernized the classic Archie into a relevant comic about today’s teens. Before that, Life with Archie explored Archie’s adult life in two separate timelines, one in which he married Betty, and one in which he married Veronica. In 2010, Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first gay character was introduced.

And then things went really dark. Afterlife with Archie deals with the Archie gang as zombies. Thanks, Sabrina! The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is currently one of my favorite comics, and it is SUPER creepy and twisted. This isn’t your parents’ Archie anymore, that’s for sure.

So, the television show Riverdale has been cranking hard since the beginning of 2017. It’s the lovechild of Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210. In much the same vein as the teen shows of the 80s, many adults are pretending to be high schoolers, but it’s the show’s strange vibe, in the little town with ridiculously big town concerns (whaaatttt??? Riverdale has two high schools and still calls itself the town with pep???? And has a Chok’lit Shop? And two gangs????) that captures the audience. Hey, I’m captured. I am in love with the new take on Veronica Lodge and the enigmatic Betty Cooper. I like Archie and I adore Jughead, the literary, misunderstood writer who comes from a sketchy background (yeah. No identifying with character going on here. Nope.) Even juicier is a cast of Dynasty like parents who are all…well, most of them…kind of revolting that the kids have to work around. Sure. It’s hard to believe the town of Riverdale is besieged by the epidemic of a drug called jingle jangle served in pixie sticks, or has a serial murder called the Black Hood purifying the town, but remember, we’re in television cult territory here. The villains would get away with things, if it weren’t for those darned kids. Go with the flow, and buy your merch at Hot Topic. You’ll be happier if you do.

And…Netflix will soon be airing a Sabrina show along the horror lines of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. While a companion show, I do not think they can go as far as they do in the comic on television, but given that it’ll only be streamed, I could be proven wrong. We also do not yet know if the show will cross over with Riverdale. I’m happy either way. Mid season finale is tomorrow night, kids. Then you gotta wait until January to get your Riverdale on.

Not a Review of Wonder Woman, But…

June 15, 2017 0

The Narrators might be planning to do a review of Wonder Woman, so I’m not going to do that. This post, instead, is about seeing one of my favorite fictional characters realized on the big screen. I’m going to have to tell you, then, about my 44-year relationship with Diana, princess of the Amazons.

My first Wonder Woman comic was a gift from my parents. It was a giant-sized treasury edition of the early World War 2 comics. I look at those comics with adult eyes, and I cringe at the portrayal of Germans and Japanese. My child eyes focused instead on a woman hero. I had been watching a steady diet of Yvonne Craig being Batgirl on the 1960s Batman, as well as watching Emma Peel in syndication on the British Avengers television show, so I was primed to think of myself as a woman of action in my pretend time. But Princess Diana of the Amazons? Well, she was different. And it wasn’t just that Diana was more brightly colored. Honestly, it was because I had finished reading the Children’s Encyclopedia of Folklore and Mythology and I was hooked on the Greek Gods.

Suddenly in my hands were two of my favorite things: Greek mythology and an action heroine paired together. After that first giant comic, Wonder Woman returned to a monthly comic. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had just shed Emma Peel like martial arts action running a groovy clothing boutique and returned to her comic book persona, rejoining the Justice League through a series of self-imposed labors, like Hercules, while her male colleagues judged the success of her completion of them. Um…missed the problems with that as a kid too. Instead, I loved the way she lassoed her costume on and off, and thought that it would be cool to be both a super hero and an employee at the United Nations…at the same time!

All things Wonder Woman were to come into my hands. Reprints of old stories, the new comics, whatever I could find. Happiness and ecstatic glee were mine when I found out that there would be a pilot for a Wonder Woman series. Unhappiness and frustration replaced my feelings when Wonder Woman was blond and the story wasn’t anything like the comic books.  But in a few more years, well, cue Linda Carter.

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Comics Review: Tonoharu

December 11, 2016 0

On the show, we’ve given a lot of love to Marvel Comics, and I can assure you, the Unreliable Narrators could do a very similar show on DC as well. It’s the independent comics that are a little harder to give love to. We have our faves (Mouseguard, Hellboy), but which indies you read are often a matter of personal taste.

Last night I drove home through an Iowa snowstorm after a full day of battening down the hatches for a creative snowy Sunday at home. I didn’t feel like digging into the writing or the huge epic fantasy I was reading, so instead I grabbed the volumes of Tonoharu that my comics guy, Ken, had tracked down for me.

Tonoharu may not pique everyone’s interest. It certainly picqued mine. The story is about two Americans serving as teaching assistants in English (think JET) in a small rural town. The art is in small squares, and is a simple, gray-washed style of moment pictures. In the prologue, Dan talks about whether or not he will renew for a year. For most of the story, we follow his predecessor, also named Dan, through his troubled, isolated year in Tonoharu.

Lars Martinson, the author, emphasizes in the support material, that the story paints a very grim view of living in Japan, and he goes on to wax poetic about how vital and life changing living in a whole different culture for a long time can be. I have to agree. While I have not lived for a year in Japan, my relationship with Japan has totaled 5 trips and probably about half a year in the country if you add it all up. My longest stay, as a student of Japanese in the summer of 1998, really helped me relate to Tonoharu. Dan is very much a fish out of water, although you can see that he would be just as uncomfortable in the US. His successor is much more like me, and figures out how to make it work in a compromise of the two cultures he’s negotiating.

The characters in the story seem real to me, because I have met so many of them. I have my own admirable sensei who is a fantastic person. I know my own shy students, strange expats who impose their culture upon the country, guys who are just there to sleep with Asian women. They all exist, and I found it eerie the way these characters might typify the expat experience in Japan.

I love Japan. Like any multi-cultural interaction, we find each other complicated and we have stereotypes about each other. We find enlightenment when we are surprised, we find isolation when we can’t understand. Tonoharu is a quiet comic, but if you’ve ever lived somewhere else for a while, you will find it a rewarding read. This will probably be one of my recommendations for the year as we close out 2016.

Animosity #1 by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de LaTorre

September 29, 2016 0

Animosity is published by Aftershock comics and is the latest work from Marguerite Bennett, featuring stunning art work by Rafael de La Torre. There’s a richness and a texture to the drawings that would render them almost storybook quality.

Except that this is a horror comic. Undisputedly.

You might know Marguerite Bennett’s work from DC Bombshells, an interesting spin/retcon of DC heroines. This isn’t that.

On page two, all the animals in the world of Animosity become consciously sentient, capable of judging right and wrong. They become, well, like humans think of themselves as being. And they have all the same issues with being used or eaten or enslaved that you think they might. There’s a sequence which shows several very short stories of the animals gaining sentience, and it is a horrific four pages, tiny stories of immeasurable sadness or anger or horror or love. The rest of the comic is good, but it doesn’t measure up to all of those tiny stories.

The main story centers on a bloodhound, Sandhor, who awakens to realize how much love he has for the little girl who spends the most time with him, Jesse. In a world where animals want revenge against humans for many, many wrongs, Sandhor decides to protect Jesse as though she were his family. The comic will follow them through this new landscape. I am very interested to see what happens next, and heartily recommend the comic to you.

You can still get in on this limited series, but it’s hot. I understand it’s going back for a 4th printing. That’s good news for Aftershock and its creators.

23.0 – Serious Comics Business

May 27, 2016 0

un_comicsSometimes you just have to follow the current. Our carefully prepared show (which airs next week!) has been derailed to talk about all things comics. It’s on our minds, so there’s no use ignoring the illustrated elephant in the room. Reboots! Retcons! What’s our take on DC Rebirth? The new Comixology subscription plan? The carefully orchestrated shitstorm surrounding Captain America #1? It’s all here, True Believers.