As I’ve mentioned before, I came up in the Golden Age of Webcomics, and one of the most beautiful things about it was that you could read all the…I don’t wanna say ‘mainsteam’ exactly, because that has dismissive connotations and they were up to some delightfully bonkers shit, but the more accessible stuff that was being noticed and talked about on wider platforms, while it was also perfectly possible to find extremely cool, niche little projects that some beautiful weirdo genius toiled away at in relative obscurity and let them become core aspects of your personality. I’ve derailed myself in the past by going on too long about both kinds, and will refrain here, but suffice it to say that Rice Boy was and remains a central text of my life, and you should go read it for free right now. I’ll wait.
I TRUST YOU HAVE NOW RETURNED, AND YOU AIN’T CHANGED, BUT YOU KNOW YOU AIN’T THE SAME. Anyway, Evan Dahm is an absolute workhorse of a creator, continually turning out work these many years and I have missed almost all of it because I fell off the webcomics train as the shadows of adult life and responsibility began to creep nearer my door; I was forced to finally crack into 3rd Voice thanks to a Facebook page that deals exclusively in out-of-context panels from almost illegally cool comics, and I owe its mod/admin/whatever-the-word-is a debt of gratitude because I’ve found an entire wishlist’s new titles to chomp into thanks to their posts, and now this: a reintroduction to one of my first and fondest comic loves.
Now quite separately, I’ve known about this WebToons thing for some time and was, initially, intellectually offended by it; platform-controlled (and in some cases partially owned I think) content, a vertical format that I understand in its context but I still think is extremely poor form for its intended function, and a host of other complaints that mainly stem from me being an Old and wishing it was 2008 again and I had nothing to do but read Triangle And Robert and flirt with She Who Is Now My Wife. (Said flirting, in fairness, did mostly consist of sharing webcomics with her, so there’s probably some bias at play.)
As a now somewhat older man I now have the privilege of reevaluating these long-held, pointless biases, and while I still think reading almost anything on your phone except like a Kindle book when you’re in line at the pharmacy or whatever is bananas, 1.) I’m much more content to recognize that this is simply the culture now and let people have what makes them happy just as I had mine, and 2.) It all reads JUST FINE on an iPad, and now I have a decade and a half of backlog from one of my favorite creators to catch up on: one of of the best of all possible worlds.
Hm? Oh, right, what 3rd Voice is actually about! So far, it’s about two scrappers who make their living finding salvage in the ruins of the Old World and trying not to get ripped off when they sell them. The pace is perfect, the worldbuilding is just deep enough, and like all of Damh’s work it features a created alphabet for in-world signage that I want to tear apart with my fucking teeth until its secrets are mine. His art has also grown by leaps and bounds while maintaining its whimsy and refusal to adhere to “realism”, resulting in characters that frankly look like Muppet Show extras but who nonetheless carry emotional expression that rivals real-life acting, it’s–actually pretty uncanny.
The pacing is actually a really interesting marriage of form and function; WebToon’s nature as a sort of semi-subscription service/aggregator/neo-RSS-feed where new “episodes” (ugh) of your subscribed series appear lends itself to the serialized nature of storytelling in a way that just isn’t found in going to the comic’s website and manually checking to see if a new page is up. Of course we had RSS readers back in the day that would bring us updates from webpages we’d subscribed to (and Feedly is still out there doing the good work for all us fretful sinners), but that was before the advent of mobile browsing, when you still had to check your laptop or desktop; now you get a little bloop on your screen that lets you know there’s a new Wayne Family Adventures or whatever, and that’s pretty cool.
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting at an Outback Steakhouse with She Who Is Your Wife, your parents, and your impressionable sheltered homeschooled nephews whom your parents have brought to Arizona for some reason, and your mother busts out the old chestnut of “Well the Irish (meaning we) were enslaved too, and I think what they went through was just as bad as what happened to black people, maybe worse!” you’ll be glad you watched this video1.
I assume that most of us are broadly familiar with many of these points already–yes the Irish suffered discrimination but they were indentured servants with rights and not property deprived of personhood, yes Africans enslaved Africans but it wasn’t racially-based and wasn’t an international industry, yes we can and should judge the actions of our ancestors by our standards because abolitionists and enslaved people disagreed with them in real time, etc.–but it never hurts to have more and better sources of ammo against smug racists.
Also, it’s always fun to listen to people talk about the things they’re passionate about! Unfortunately I just can’t with YouTube, I have always been and will always be an Audio Boi, but if this channel has a podcast feed I’m subscribing before I finish this sentence2.
This show-then-book came to my attention in an episode of 99% Invisible and I was immediately drawn in; John picks an aspect of what he calls “the human-centered planet” and reviews it on a five-star scale, usually with an introspective essay that somehow relates to his life as a framing device. He’s an excellent writer and speaker; I haven’t listened to his other show, Dear Hank & John, but I understand that one is much goofier in contrast to this, a fairly subdued and straightforward solo project that manages plenty of sly humor but is much more centered on the kind of bittersweet core of humankind’s existence on this planet: that we love being here, but can’t seem to help destroying it just by existing.
There are only 37 episodes, usually around twenty minutes to half an hour each, and each covering two topics, such as Canada Geese and Diet Dr. Pepper, or Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad, and if you’re anything like me (by which I mean a slightly obsessive 1.5x-speed listener) you’ll chomp through them all pretty quickly and then be sad they’re gone, but then you’ve got the book, which contains revised, expanded versions of the essays and several new ones, just the perfect length for reading to your wife while she falls asleep.
It would be a tacky and precious cliche to give The Anthropocene Reviewed its own out-of-five-stars rating, but I am nonetheless tempted because what am I gonna do, not? It’s right there. I give that instinct one and a half out of five stars.
I recently reviewed Asteroid City along with the rest of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre as a way to recalibrate after Blaugust kicked my ass! But the joke was on Blaugust, for my human ass, like every other part of every other physical object in the state of Arizona, has become like so many candles left unattended in my bag and ruining my harmonica4: melty, and likely to trap a foot forever in its goopular recesses.
Y’know what I really love? When a game’s mien–its attitude, its mechanics, its way–saturate the cultural consciousness until you start getting likes of it; Zeldalikes, Soulslikes, Stardewlikes, Metroidvanias, now Hadeslikes as a subset of Roguelikes, and apropos to our purposes, Pokémonlikes. They all have their challenges and different kinds of growth that they’re most suited to, but Pokémonlikes are tough because they necessitate the creation of a whole slate of monstros that the player might fail to click with entirely based on something as simple as æsthetics or as nebulous as “this doesn’t feel how Pikachu made me feel when I was 8”.
Knowing this and having seen many missteps with other games, Cassette Beasts makes two excellent decisions: a smaller roster of critters to allow for greater creative focus and personality for each one, and leaning so hard they’re horizontal into their sort of Diet Vaporwave æsthetics. They even balance the lower number of monstros by keeping evolution5 and featuring a mechanic allowing you to fuse any two varmints into a third for the length of the battle, which–now that I think about it might–actually be more than an average Pokémon game has? W–the–hang on, I need to call NASA.
These strong fundamentals allow for its most ambitious innovation: the addition of multiple new types such as Plastic, Beast, Astral, and Glitter alongside your standard Fire, Stone, etc., and furthermore each type matchup having not just the usual elemental strengths and weaknesses but special interactions: if a Pombom6 uses a Fire attack on a Plastic-type Traffikrab,7 it melts the plastic and turns the Traffikrab into a Poison-type for three turns.
Oh also at a certain point you meet creatures that are definitely not regular Beasts and are referred to only as ARCHANGELS.
It’s a good show8! Also a FIZZING hive of 90’s that-guys/gals/etc., which is always fun. End of thoughts!
Fairy Tale – Stephen King
The new Stephen King! Also the best from him that I’ve read in years; I’m reading it to She Who Is My Wife at bedtime and while we always enjoy doing so, we’re actively looking forward to reading this every night, so King’s doing something right.
A boy named Charlie saves an old man’s life, becoming his friend and heir; if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also the premise of his short story (and Netflix movie) Mr. Harrigan’s Phone from his collection If It Bleeds. BUT THERE THE SIMILARITIES END, FRIENDO, because (and this is not a spoiler, it’s back-cover territory) Old Man dies and leaves Boy…a hidden staircase in a well, leading down, and down, and down, to Somewhere Else. Also there’s a dog named Radar!
It’s not a slow read exactly, there’s just 600 pages of it; after around a month we’re a third of the way through and Boy is just going down the staircase, but King’s trademark custom of spending words like a Bageler spends on comics has actually worked spectacularly here, building and fleshing out the setting and characters and letting us care about them and this time and place before shit gets weird and, presumably, heartbreaking/terrifying.
His other trademark–an ear for dialogue what will sour milk inside a cow from fifty paces–is also in full effect, and furthermore he seems to think that either a 17-year-old boy in 2016 talks like a 75-year-old Mainer, or that septuagenarian Mainers keep up on their Zennial slang automatically; either way, you have this kid referring to a TV remote as a “zapper” or calling cookies “little marshmallow jobbies”, and mentioning that classic beloved teen movie, 1976’s Logan’s Run9, it’s ridiculous and hilarious. Book good! Go read book.
(The Streaming Service
Formerly Known As HBO)
Brief disclaimer: Ezra Miller is, by all accounts, horrible verging on monstrosity, and inarguably guilty of many crimes and possibly hurting people. But they’re also not the only person who worked on this movie (although admittedly they are two of those people, which is more than most problematic stars) and the ethics of interacting with art made by bad people are complicated. Don’t hassle me about my probably imperfect position and I’ll return the courtesy.
Against all expectation and my better instincts, I liked this movie, both on its own merits and as a way to soft-reboot DC’s generally disastrous cinematic universe while preserving what little of it worked. Here are some of the things I liked about it:
- Barry has a calorimeter built into his wristwatch/suit-control; that’s fuckin’ cool and I wish more Flash stories did anything with the idea that he could hit a caloric deficit and start to autocannibalize, not just get hella hella hungry. But in fairness this movie has enough going on, so.
- [REDACTED]’s explanation of how the timeline/multiverse system works doesn’t make a damn lick of sense and feels completely different from not only Marvel’s version of the idea but most other versions too; it’s the movie saying “Don’t worry about it” and it was the best possible choice.
- They do a fun joke with the title at the start of the movie I don’t want to spoil, but it got a great big jackass-laugh out of me, which, not hard to do, admittedly, but you still love to see it.
- Batman gets wrangled with the Lasso of Truth at one point and belligerently confirms a popular internet theory about all versions of Batman everywhere
- Flash gets to actually solve problems with his skillset, not just throw himself at whatever problem the Big Three10 don’t have time to handle (although that is why he’s handling some of them)
- IN ZOD WE TRUST, BAYBEE
- I have no idea if any comic-Flashes are Hispanic, but there’s sure as hell no reason for him and his mom not to be, and that kind of just-because representation (along with Supergirl being played by a Colombian actress, even though she’s not from like, Space Colombia or anything in the movie) is a perfect touch that lends depth and flavor to the characters without making it their entire deal11
- Both the score and the soundtrack were great; somebody sure loves Chicago songs!12
I know. I know! “Aren’t all of *vague gesture* those shows about dudes who hate their wives and et cetera?” A fair criticism, and I’d be lying if I said none of this show’s choices are gross and have aged poorly–there’s a ton of gay panic “humor”, toxic masculinity, and more sexism than anybody’d like, and the kind of racism that’s probably supposed to be bad in-world but nobody ever says so–but no show is without sin, and KOQ at least balances them with genuine warmth and a very high ratio of shockingly great jokes and legitimately fantastic performances from all involved. Kevin James in particular, much as he has lately become a lazy Tim-Allenesque parody of himself, has an absolute mastery of timing and delivery that make the show sound unique and helps Doug seem like he’s actually smart, just a lazy piece of shit, unlike Ray Barone, who is a willing ignorant and a lazy piece of shit and bad husband. At one point Arthur (Doug’s father-in-law, whose moving in with them is the series’ inciting incident, not unlike a Martin Crane with so many Frasiers) describes Doug as “Decent, but weak”, and that’s actually an interesting combination in an ostensible protagonist because it offers opportunities for conflict and growth.
It’s also undeniable that I’m now squarely in the show’s demographic sights; I am thirty or forty years old, and jokes about being married and that guy at work being a dick and how your car can’t go two weeks without shitting its bones in the Panda Express parking lot are actually funny to me now, provided they actually are funny.
A final note, to balance out my surprisingly positive take on this thing I rolled my eyes about in my youth, is that I despise the theme song the show started using in the second season, it’s some of the most self-indulgent “aw shucks we’re just working-class but we’re making good” pablum I’ve ever heard; if the dumb little tired-but-dignified sax solo at the end were a guinea pig I would load it into a pitching machine, take the plate and say batter up.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap
AN EMBARRASSING ADMISSION: I don’t actually have much Game Boy Advance experience! I had one, but I wasn’t able to get new games often, so even though I already had them on PSOne at that point I needed to make my game purchases with the highest possible cost-to-playtime ratio; as a result, it was mainly a play-Final-Fantasy-machine. I’d already played all the PSOne 2D entries, but the novelty of playing them during car trips, family dinners, and Poopaw’s funeral was worth the price of admission, as were re-purchasing them later on iOS and Switch, because I have a sickness and Squenix knows that. I wanna fight Exdeath in a giant space-tree, and if there’s a cure for that so help me God I will join the anti-vaxers13.
Anyway, as a result, I missed the larger part of the GBA library; all the Marios, Zeldas, Metroids, Fire Emblems, etc., y’know, the basic bitch stuff that’s all I deserve. Some Castlevoniums, I think? And in the wake of Tears of the Kingdom (and astonishing lack of updates re: Twilight Princess and Wind Waker ports/remasters) I’m making my way through the Zeldas I haven’t played, and it STARTS WITH GETTIN’ TINY.
I’m not far enough to have any real thoughts about it, but I like my talky hat-bird and the Picori are adorable; also, as fantasy gibberish-languages go, theirs is a lot of fun and oddly musical, which is hard to express in text but they pull it off.
(The Streaming Service
Formerly Known As HBO)
Goddammit this list is too long already, but I put this wonderful, insane thing on while job-hunting and I sincerely cannot remember the last time I had this much fun watching television. The upshot is that Peacemaker (John Cena) should definitely be in jail following the events of The Suicide Squad (2021)14, but he isn’t, which is rad for him, but he still absolutely has an explosive chip in his head keeping him on a government leash, as a result of which he is once again more or less free to be what Simon R. Green called “an extremely worrying force for good”. There’s also a deep core of self-inflicted sadness and self-hating masculine toxicity that should be hokey, but John Cena is an shockingly capable actor and manages to portray a man who is truly miserable but doesn’t know how to change while also being a hilarious and kind of amazingly innocent asshole, it’s amazing.
Peacemaker is not for the weak of constitution, or those who fear what might awaken if they allow themselves to rock, but as someone who likes to hope that he is ultimately good-hearted but unfortunately very stupid and also has a racist dad, I feel seen by this program and recommend it in the strongest possible terms.
Nota bene15: you need not have seen The Suicide Squad (2021), in which John Cena’s portrayal of the character originated in order to understand anything about this show, but go watch it if you haven’t, it rules because it’s from James Gunn (who did Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequels) and say what you will, the man knows how to make a fun movie.
Torment: Tides Of Numenera
Readers: I have erred16.
Having just finished Planescape: Torment, I decided to boot up one of its critically acclaimed spiritual sequels, Torment: Tides of Numenera (the other being Pillars of Eternity, which fucking rules), and was immediately hooked deep by its sci-fantasy setting, incredible writing, and its ability to serve as an introduction to the mechanics of the Cypher System, which the original Numenera tabletop role-playing game ran on (and which the upcoming Old Gods Of Appalachia RPG will run shortly). I started a whole new notebook! I read Aligern and Callistege’s dialogue-text in the voices of Laszlo and Nadja from What We Do In The Shadows! I’m onboard! What could the problem possibly be, you ask? Does da Wittle Baby Bageler got too many good games to pway? 1. Shut up, and 2. Yes.
As I write, Baldur’s Gate III will drop in 3 days17, and I’m already playing the only possible thing in any world that I would consider delaying it for. (I’m not gonna, of course, and playing them coterminously is begging to have a stroke in the controller-scheme lobe of my brain.) When you come down to it, this is just really me being grateful to be alive in a time when so many people get to experience stories like these and share them with each other, and these past few years have been curiously ripe with that exact thing; Animal Crossing, Elden Ring, Tears Of The Kingdom, and now Baldur’s Gate III have really recreated a feeling of community and joy and discovery surrounding games that I haven’t felt since Pokemon Red/Blue and Ocarina of Time dropped when I was eight years old, and my schooldays were spent eagerly discussing secrets and discoveries and rumors that turned out to be absolute horseshit, Clarf, Mew is not under that truck, there is not a secret Purple Yoshi18, and you can’t save or revive Aeris. ACCEPT THE DRAMATIC WEIGHT OF HER DEATH CLARF, RECESS HAS ALMOST REACHED ITS END AND SO IS MY PATIENCE FOR YOUR “MY BIG BROTHER TOLD ME SO” TOMFOOLERY, YOUR BROTHER GOT FIRED FROM THE SAM GOODY FOR POOPING ON A CUSTOMER WHO TRIED TO BUY A CASSINGLE OF LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOCA.
That was a lot of things! I hope you enjoyed some of them, or will enjoy some of them when time and mental bandwidth and funds permit. What did you all get up to this month? Who’s your favorite Peacemaker character and why is it Eagley? When did you first experiment with gettin’ tiny? Did that lady ever get to live la vida loca? Lemme know in the comments!
Until next time, be good to yourselves and each other, for face my wrath.
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
- Also why is your life my life? Are you doppelganging up on me? More importantly: what’s your credit score?
- Nope, bummer, but I guess I can…listen to the videos without watching them while I play video games? A perfectly sane way to consume media!
- Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of his other books and can’t vouch for them, but fuckin’, c’mon, how many books have you written
- IT WAS A HOHNER CHROMONICA IN THE KEY OF C AND IT WAS A GIFT FROM MY BELOVED DEPARTED UNCLE AND I MISS IT ALL THE TIME
- Here called ‘remastering’ in keeping with the cassette theme
- And I’m kind of impressed at how blatantly Grey’s Anatomy lifted its character archetypes, but then they didn’t originate with ER either, so, vague gesture
- Although in fairness I was watching Logan’s Run when I was sixteen, so maybe I’m the Old Man From Maine here
- Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman
- Not that it would be a problem if it was their whole deal, but this way is a lot harder for racists to get an articulate grip on
- It’s me! Also: Batman
- NOT Suicide Squad (2016), he said, mad at how bad DC is at making and naming movies
- From the Italian, meaning “Fuckin’ look here, Benny”
- I know, I know, but trust me, it’s more likely than you’d think
- (for me, a *😎* Digital Deluxe Edition purchaser, or as the industry lovingly refers to us, “sucker”; they tell me it’s an acronym for something flattering, I’ll look it up later
- Although there are Black and White ones that can eat the hot peppers the others can’t