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Alex Brown

Don’t Touch That Dial: Midseason TV 2016 – Comic Books

Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In the first of two very special episodes, we’re looking at new midseason premieres based on comic books—specifically, one that never heard the old adage that bigger isn’t always better (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), one that took the complaint about network television turning everything into a procedural as a dare (Lucifer), and one that almost makes up for the lack of a Wonder Woman movie (Supergirl).

[“I don’t say this often, but I am craving a good fight right now.”]

All Shined Up: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

It’s 1926 and magic in the United States has been prohibited through the 18th Amendment. For the last six years magic has gone underground. Shine, a concoction of liquid magic brewed by magicians, has the nation worked up into a froth of paranoia and addiction. Mobsters run back alley speakeasies and and petty criminals push backwoods moonshine while the federal agents in the Prohibition Unit struggles to hold back the surging tide of murdered junkies and drug runners.

Alex Danfrey joins the Unit to bury his past and pay for his own misdeeds after his father went to jail for peddling shine and covered for Alex, the real magician. His boss knows his secrets, however, and backs him into a corner, forcing him to go undercover in the Shaw Gang. If he can score enough intel to bust the whole family the Unit will clear his name…but if the Shaws catch him out they’ll kill him. In rural Virginia, Joan Kendrick struggles to keep her family afloat while her uncle drowns himself in his own shine after witnessing the brutal death of Joan’s mother. A mysterious criminal named Gunn makes her an offer she can’t refuse and deposits her in a magic joint in Washington D.C. She and her six magical compatriots will have to pull off the impossible if they want to survive.

[“Magic can achieve a lot of things, but it can’t undo the past.”]

Pull List: Hellcat, Moon Girl, and Faith

2016 has gotten off to a pretty dire foot, what with the deaths of two of the titans of Western entertainment, the spectre of a Labyrinth reboot, and winter pounding the hell out of everyone from coast to coast. To make myself feel better, I decided to start this Pull List off with something sunshine-y and fun. We could all use some pleasantness in our lives, and here to bring it are Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (plus a special peek at Faith).

[“Don’t worry. I have a plan. For everything.”]

Star Wars: The Fandom Awakens

I didn’t expect to rediscover my love of Star Wars. It had been so long that I’d forgotten how much I once enjoyed endlessly quoting “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” and making that cornball Han Solo shrug face. Star Wars held such little interest that by the time I went to a showing of The Force Awakens I’d seen a grand total of one trailer and was only half paying attention to it when it autoplayed on YouTube. When the end credits rolled I was trembling with excitement. By the time I got to my car I already had Tumblr and AO3 pulled up on my phone. I stayed up most of the night consuming every thinkpiece, review, and speculative discussion I could find. The Star Wars fandom had roused from its slumber and was now infused by prodigal geeks like me and a host of squealing, passionate newcomers. And oh, what a magnificent fandom it has become.

[“Women always figure out the truth. Always.”]

Pull List: Paper Girls and Plutona

I think it’s safe to say that 2015 was the year of Image Comics. Their titles and creators topped just about every Best of Comics list—including both of mine—and for good reason. By letting the creators run the show, they are free from the constraints of mass appeal and densely tangled histories and origin stories run rampant in DC and Marvel. Not that the Big Two haven’t made some bold choices this year, but no matter what they do they are always stuck playing catch up. Where Image takes three giant leaps ahead, DC and Marvel take two small steps forward then trip over their blind pandering and fall back a step. To reward Image for its forethought and quality, I think it only fair to devote the first Pull List of 2016 to two of its best series to debut last year: Paper Girls and Plutona.

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Bending Shakespeare

As a woman of color who spends an absolutely ludicrous amount of time reading fanfic, I’m a huge nerd for gender, queer, and racebending. I’ve read some amazing fem!Destiel, adore racebent Harry Potter fanart, and to the OP who first came up with the brilliant idea to cast Taylor Swift and Kristen Stewart in an all-girl remake of Grease, I love you. In a lot of cases, I tend to prefer the bent versions over the original canon. I mean, if you don’t think Lucy Liu is the greatest Watson to ever Watson, well, I’m here to tell you that you’re just plain wrong.

I’m also someone who grew up in the 90s, which means I was drowning in a sea of hormones and emotions during the peak of America’s Shakespeare movie adaptation phase. To this day the soundtracks to Romeo + Juliet and 10 Things I Hate About You are on my iPod…and I still have the original CDs, even if they’re too scratched to ever play again. Julia Stiles’ Kat made me fall in love with Shakespeare, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo sealed the deal, Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet made me reconsider my life choices, and Mekhi Phifer’s O set my heart a’flutter once again. And now, with the magic of the internet and several streaming services with extensive catalogues, I can combine my obsession with Shakespeare with my passion for bending.

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Where to Start with Diana Wynne Jones

So you want to read Diana Wynne Jones. Congratulations! An excellent decision, if I do say so myself. But now what?

For an author who produced a book a year for forty years, figuring out which book to read first is no mean feat. With a catalogue as long as hers and full of so many related and unrelated series, there’s no reason you have to start at the beginning. Lucky for you, I am a huge fan and ready to get on my soapbox and sing her praises.

[“One of the things about fantasy is that it doesn’t date. Only reality gets old-fashioned.”]

Pull List: The Top Comic Books of 2015, Part 1

It’s that time of year again… time to bust out the year-end “best of” lists. Between DC and Marvel, big indies, small presses, and the World Wide Web, thousands of comics made their way to your hands and screens this year. Despite Secret Wars and DCU, 2015 was an all-around gangbuster year for comics. This is the first of a two-part roundup. And don’t forget to drop by the comments to let us know what were your top picks.

[First up on the docket…]

The Walking Dead Season 6 Midseason Finale: “Start to Finish”

The Walking Dead may be a lot of different things to a lot of different people—family drama, zombie horror, warnings of a dystopian future, cash machine—but at the end of the day, it’s a show about the lengths a person will go to survive in a world determined to destroy them. While that’s a thrilling storytelling device, in the long haul it makes for a weak theme. There are only so many ways in which a character can develop within those narrow borders that you end up telling variations on the same story ad nauseum. To spice things up, a writer might turn a bunch of extras into cannon fodder or kill off a beloved character, but once the dust settles the same old, same old is still ambling along. The best and worst thing to be said about TWD this far into the game is that at least it’s consistent.

[“Well, at least you’re being honest.”]

Pull List: Pretty Deadly

At this point, if Kelly Sue DeConnick is involved, I’m guaranteed to be there front and center. She could reboot the phonebook and I’d have it in my pull list the second it was announced. It’s more than just being a fan of her work. Yes, she’s a feminist icon and a comic book powerhouse, but more than that she uses an old medium to tell new stories, well, maybe not new per se but overlooked and ignored. Her take on Carol Danvers reinvigorated a wasted character into a truly amazing run on Captain Marvel. By blending the lost art of Blaxploitation and age-old fears of a patriarchy run wild she created Bitch Planet, a high watermark graphic novels will spend decades trying to match. And with the hook of a genderbent Spaghetti Western, Pretty Deadly came roaring onto shelves.

[“Am I a monster?”]

Farewell, My Robot: Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill

Meet Raymond Electromatic: private investigator by day, hitman by night, and the last robot on earth all the damn time. Ray was built by the now deceased Professor Thornton and his basic personality template modeled on the professor. Thornton also developed Ray’s computer partner, Ada, the chain-smoking brains of the operation…or at least she would be if she existed outside of a computer processor. Ada has tinkered with Ray’s prime directive – so that they be financially independent – as well as his tech specs, turning him into an efficient killing machine. If only his battery and memory tape didn’t run out after 24 hours. And while it would probably make his job easier if he looked human, being a 7-foot tall metal monstrosity has its perks.

In the late summer of 1965, an actress with a bag of gold appears at his door. Eva McLuckie hires Ray to bump off one of her missing co-stars, Charles David. Like the Raymond Chandler tales Made to Kill was inspired by, what starts out as a run-of-the-mill murder-for-hire spirals out of control until the plot spans scores of suspects, guilty parties, and unfortunate bystanders, with everyone from Soviet spies to undercover CIA agents to supposedly dead actors to wage jockeys just trying to pay the bills. As Ray draws nearer to the heart of the mystery he stumbles upon a great secret that could either unlock his potential or kill him. But whatever happens, as long as he still has his hat it’ll all work out. Right?

[“No trouble I hope, Sparks?”]

Pull List: Locke & Key

It’s nearly Halloween, which means it’s time once again for my annual Joe Hill re-read. Since all of my copies of NOS4A2 and Horns are currently being read by friends and relations, I decided to take a re-gander at Locke & Key, Hill’s epic graphic novel about a family besieged by evils, human and demon alike. As all good horror stories are, it’s a densely woven tale spanning centuries with an unlikely band of heroes up against the ultimate Big Bad, a creature with endless patience and a zeal for violence, chaos, and corruption.

[“I guess this has always been about family.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2015

And we’re back with the second installment of the Fall 2015 edition of “Don’t Touch That Dial.” Up this time is a show dragged from the grave in a failed attempt to make its struggling network some quick cash (Heroes Reborn), a show created to make an already rich studio enough money to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and a show created by guys with so much money that no one tells them when something sucks (Scream Queens).

[“When you look back on your life, the one thing you don’t want to feel is regret.”]

Don’t Touch That Dial: Fall 2015 Procedurals

DTTD_Fall2015-cover1

Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In the first of two very special episodes, we’ll look at new procedurals—specifically, ones with a woman with a very particular set of skills, skills she has acquired over a very long career (Blindspot); a white man who learns that privilege is is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, in which case another privileged white man will just give you more privilege (Limitless); and a cop and a psychic using their knowledge of the future to harass potential criminals (Minority Report).

[“Couldn’t I just kick the door down?”]