Especially since the advent of this site, I’ve allocated all of my Media Enjoyment Action Points to the ‘Comics’ column, leaving only baseline levels, influenced by my stats and equipment bonuses, for things like Non-Comic Books and Video Games, to say nothing of non-media exploits. I can’t remember the last time I woodburned a devotary ikon of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs in hopes of attaining eternal salvation or triple my money back!
All of that said, a body can’t all-comics-all-the-time, so I thought I’d provide a periodic update on what other stuff I’m enjoying at the moment; maybe you’d like some of it! Feel free to drop any thoughts, threats, or ‘you might also likes’ in the comments. And if you don’t want to run the risk–THE FATAL RISK–of missing anything, you can sign up for my newsletter here and get a once-monthly roundup of everything I wrote on the last page of the calendar!
An hourlong family dramedy from 1992 starring what is, in retrospect, an incredible cast, including but not limited to Zelda Rubenstein, the Tom Skerritt, Fyvush Finkel, Kathy Baker and Jigsaw’s non-Cary Elwes apprentice! Picture it: Rome, Wisconsin. A small town where weird shit happens, and goddamn it if Sheriff Skerritt and his family don’t have to deal with it. Equal parts legal, family, procedural and social drama, Fences has a surprisingly deep sense of its own continuity for a Social Issue/Crime Of The Week structure, and balances the goofy macabre like the Tin Man being murdered onstage in a local production of The Wizard Of Oz or a serial bather breaking into people’s tubs with taking some shockingly progressive swings for its time and place, like a transwoman being treated with complete respect and each of the cop characters having fairly regular “wait, are we the bad guys?” moments. And like yeah, they could’ve said it louder, but they said it at all, and that’s not nothing. Anyway, it’s a favorite around these parts and as far as I’m concerned it’s worth watching for Fyvush Finkel’s mercenary-yet-principled public defender Douglas Wambaugh, who once represented a criminal who robbed a jewelry store in a frog mask pro bono, saying he felt it was his duty as a representative of the reptile-professional community.
It’s on Hulu now but there’s no guarantee it’ll stay up for long, and its only official DVD releases that can be played in the U.S. are Season One and Complete Series (regionless from Australia), so watch it now!
You know him, you love him, if you’re a cat you fear him. I…simply cannot overemphasize my love for ALF; the humor–not just the jokes but the entire philosophy and perspective–hit me exactly right, and the show is propped up a core of pure, solid sincerity and vulnerability that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere else on television, and certainly not in comedy. I’m in the process of writing a full article about it (it’s shockingly hard to find decent transcripts or screencaps, to the point that I’m considering doing them myself, having worked for years as a professional transcriptionist), but in the meantime I genuinely urge you to set aside any lingering 80’s-media prejudice you might have and boot this up; while not every joke has aged perfectly it’s surprisingly free of era-common racism and sexism, and takes some pleasantly progressive stances.
Oof, okay, so, I’m on record as despising the comic this show is based on; it’s not the brutality of the content, it’s not the deplorable personal politics of Garth Ennis (in sum: ‘fuck women, fuck religion, fuck any man that isn’t a violent, macho asshole’), it’s the way the book shows you these things with a crystal-clear attitude of mean-spirited glee, as if to say ‘Look at you, you’re reading about a woman being forced to perform oral sex to get a job, you must love it, you sick fuck’. And so I said ‘A-no a-thank you’ for years, until I kept seeing opinions from people who felt exactly the same about the comic saying that the show was incredible, and holy shit they are correct. Part of it is the strength of every single performer, part of it is the “oh god gross, forget that” attitude it takes to the source material’s canon, and part of it is that the fundamental attitude of the show is different and doesn’t carry the same leering prurience, but The Boys is sincerely one of the best new shows I’ve seen in recent memory.
If you’ve somehow escaped even the basic premise, it is this: there are superheroes, they’re as amoral and hideous as anyone with that much power and those few consequences, and when one of them splatters the wrong fiancée all over the sidewalk, he meets The Boys: a team of goddamn maniacs who watch the fucking watchmen and put them underground when necessary. It’s still an extremely upsetting show full of horrible things, but at least the show agrees that they’re horrible, and it offers some of the largest-scale criticism of nationalism, fascism, capitalism, and media empires as propaganda machines that I’ve ever seen on anything that ever reached this level of success. Of course, as one might have predicted, an upsetting number of people take it at face value and have adopted attitudes of “Actually? White nationalism good!” in sheer, deliberate rejection of the show’s message beneath its inch-thin patina of satire; as MC Frontalot said, ‘If I don’t mean it and you know it, then you know just what I mean’, and the problem is that these people don’t know that the show doesn’t mean it. Also: Karl Urban reliably has the most fun of anyone in anything he’s in; it makes the bad stuff better and makes the good stuff great. This is the latter.
Anyway! Watch it, holy shit, god what a program.
Bluey is a miracle. My wife works with children, so I get exposed to more than the average amount of kids’ programming (even in an age and media climate where there’s a lot of ‘childrens’ media’ enjoyed by and seemingly aimed at adults), and Bluey is, in my humble and limited estimation, possibly the best television program on the air right now. It’s from the ‘Stralia, mainly centers around the Heelers, a family of extremely good doggos: Mum and Dad (Chili and Bandit) and their girls Bingo and Bluey, who are like I dunno, maybe three and six-ish? And it is just the most belligerently wholesome, gentle, and sincerely hilarious thing, and has received specific positive attention for the dad, Bandit, who is not just passively patient and supportive but actively engaged with his girls and their lives and view of the world in a way I have genuinely never seen portrayed on TV before.
Every episode is only eight minutes, and we use it as a cool-down show at the end of the night after more stressful fare, or before work as a way to start the day on a positive note; we’re somehow still in the first season (of three so far) despite being something like 30 episodes in? I dunno man, and I don’t care, keep it coming. If you check out one program on this list, make it Bluey.
Since the new one came out I decided to see if I had what it takes in me to finally kill Xenoblade Chronicles and eventually check 2 and 3 out, and it ended up being a hell of a lot of fun, and kind of the perfect game for me right now?
XC is a JRPG-ass JRPG, with one of Those Stories: two gods from the dawn of creation killed each other, and their corpses became the game-world, giving rise to two civilizations at war, there’s a Sword of Destiny, etc., and it’s great if that kind of thing is for you like it is for me, but it takes a long time to get through, for more than a few reasons. Its in-game world is famously absolutely fucking enormous, clocking in at something like 80 square miles, which is none too shabby at all for 2010 (by contrast, Skyrim is about 15, and Breath Of The Wild is around 140); combined with the on-map item collection where you just gobble down glowing blue dots like Pac-Man and a battle system that literally plays automatically if you let it, this is the perfect zone-out game to play while you do other things like edit podcasts or watch TV or if your job is the kind where you can get away with it. But if you actually want to Play It, it’s completely great! The battle system is actually really deep if you engage with it, relying on a series of enemy status-triggers (ex. Topple allows Break allows Daze, etc.) and ally meters that lead to combos which interweave with those triggers, so combos can sometimes go up to nine or ten links if you can keep inflicting those successive effects, it’s great.
I’d be lying if I said I engaged with all of it; it’s got an extremely layered and complex crafting aspect that lets you create stat-boosting gems for your equipment, and I did not care for that bullshit, but if you’re into “Grants +2 to Ether Defense” and similar, cousin you are gonna go bananas. Similarly there’s an Affinity stat for not just your main party members, but entire cities and most of the NPC characters in them, and gang I did not even interact with that, but if managing the emotions of an entire world is your bag, go to town!
Listen: I am never not kind of playing Stardew Valley. I think this is understandable; it’s not a ‘beat it and move on’ game, and I have neither beaten it nor moved on.
Look I don’t have any special insight into this game, it’s just incredible, and there are a million expansions and fan mods that include Jorts and Jean trying to unionize the Jojamart workers, and I’m not particularly good at it but I love it and my…farmfic, I guess??? is that I’m a Klingon who named my farm after Sto’Vo’Kor (the Klingon Valhalla) and whose cat’s name is Honor, it’s great. If you haven’t played it there is quite literally no modern platform or computer you can’t check it out on for free or cheap-as free, and all of the official content and expansions are added without additional charge regardless of how long you’ve own the game. It’s the closest thing there is to Indie Gone Big, and fair play to ConcernedApe.
Aw shit, there’s a war! That’s bad.
But you and your squad can fight to protect the innocent! That’s good!
But it’ll strip you all of your innocence and optimism. That’s bad.
But you’ll come out stronger and fit to lead a new world! That’s good!
But it’ll be a world traumatized by war. That’s bad.
But–alright enough, we all love Treehouse Of Horror, but I’m hemorrhaging readers. Remember kids: don’t trust anyone over 30!
Valkyria Chronicles is a pseudo real-time tactics RPG set in a world just a few clicks down the rail from ours, which is having its version of World War I; the powers involved are largely recognizably similar, but there’s a resource called Ragnite that changes the entire game, both metaphorical and video. And it’s like any other war story and any other video game; you get to know the characters and their stories, do RPG stuff with their soldier-classes, and the combat is actually really fun, allowing you to be as sniper-strategic or run-and-gun as you like.
Also, if a game opens like this and doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what to tell you:
I’ve never been much of a TMNT guy and even less a sidescrolling beat-em-up guy, but I heard such overwhelmingly good things about this that I had to give it a try and allow me to confirm: EVERYTHING you’ve heard about this game is true, it absolutely owns bones even for someone like me who has no particular attachment to the property or gameplay genre. I don’t know enough about them to speak to particulars, but if any part of you kiiiinda wants to play this game, I promise it’s well worth your time. PLUS:
I mean come on, these should really tell you everything you need to know.
(Note: I currently edit and produce every podcast I’m a part of; I do this because I’m an insufferable audio perfectionist who can’t give up control, and I note it because I think I do good work and I’m proud of it.)
This is my Percy Jackson & The Olympians read-through show with my pal William! We just wrapped the first season, where we read The Lightning Thief, and capped it off with a watch-through of the 2010 movie featuring our first guest, incredible artist Tall Greg, whom you might remember as the creator of that frickin’ rad painting that now sits proudly on my mantle! We’ve got a couple of interstitial special episodes planned for between the seasons, and then on to The Sea Of Monsters!
This has been an incredible amount of fun and the chance to finally do a project with an awesome guy who is, at this point, one of my oldest friends, and a chance to get better at creating and producing the kind of stuff I love to make and love to listen to; which is to say a chance to get better at ripping off The Greatest Generation and The Flop House. Anyway, it’s friggin’ great and I recommend you come listen whether you care about a mid-2010’s YA juggernaut or not! Hear me make my buddy mad in hilarious ways! It’s so fuckin easy, guys.
This is a tabletop RPG in the Kids On Bikes system run alternately for me and pals Thony and Nigel by my pals Thony and Nigel, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my life??? It’s gone I think something like fifty episodes, currently in its third season, all of which have taken place during 198X and 199X, in the small town of Spencer’s Folly, which we will ONE DAY figure out is either in Alaska or Canada, but for the moment is simply Up North. Season 3 was on a hiatus for Life and also Plague reasons, but we’re back and you can’t stop us baybeeee!
In the first and third seasons I play Kitt Russell, (possibly?) self-appointed Junior Marshall of Spencer’s Folly & Surrounding Environs, desperately racing to stop a cult from summoning their master and stop an evil corporate hive-mind from binding one to their service, respectively, and in the second I play DeSoto (only his maman gets to call him his given name, Jubilee), a teen scumbag drug dealer and black marketeer who has to prevent a goddamn witch from resurrecting herself and taking her revenge on a town that wronged her! And yes, that IS shockingly similar to the Fear Street trilogy, enough so that we were worried about litigation for a bit, but fortunately we started this storyline well before those movies and can document it! GET OFF OUR BACKS, R. L. STINE.
Secret Podcast Project #1
Okay, this one’s a work in progress and not ready to drop yet, but I can tell you it involves:
1. My pal Autumn being Grumpy™️, because
2. I tricked them into doing something I love and they hate, and
3. It’s going to be hilarious.
And that’s all the bonus news and other whatnot that’s fit to print for the moment! Suffice it to say, I am also almost always reading, both comics and books, both for this and for funzies, and you’ll hear about all of them eventually. What all are you up to these days? How’s that worm bin? What about those archery lessons you were taking? What the hell is Dave up to? Fill a brother in down in yonder comments, and I’ll see you next time I have a crop of non-comics stuff to report.
Until then, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamn masks, and if you see four lights, say four lights.