Back to a different future: The Jetsons get an emotionally-gritty DC Comics makeover

(image via Newsarama (c) Amanda Conner (DC Comics))

 

Following the recent trend to give much-loved Hanna-Barbera a bright, sparkly new leg-up into the current pop culture firmament, which has includes Scooby Doo, Wacky Races and The Flintstones, DC Comics has now turned its attention to The Jetsons.

Presented at the time as the future equivalent of The Flintstones – the two series share considerable similarities and tackled similar issues – the relatively shortlived series (1962-1963;1985-1987) bore all the retro future 1950s flourishes you could ask for such as flying cars, homes in the sky and travelators. (By the way, did you know The Flintstones and The Jetsons once met? See here and here for futuristic Stone Age proof.)

It was, at the time, exactly what everyone imagined the future would look like.

Now we’re off course, we know it’s nothing like what the show imagined and so DC Comics are giving George, Elroy, Judy and Jane, dog Astro and maid/robot/overseer of the family Rosie the Robot, are a good postmodern makeover, courtesy of from writers Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Pier Brito, including notes CBR, some very dark overtones befitting our modern less rose-tinted view of the future:

“We get a sense of the sprawling world, packed with hover-cars, funky hairdos and futuristic slang, and even get a taste of the world’s origin; at some point in their past and our future, the Earth flooded, forcing humans to live above sea-level in their mid-air floating homes. Rather than depicting the future as an optimistic place, the issue sets up a world where people wouldn’t be able to survive on ground- (or sea-)level. There’s a deeply sad, almost disturbing element to this story. Yes, mankind escaped extinction, but do people even belong on Earth anymore? If we need to rely so heavily on technology, do humans deserve to stick around?”

 

(image via CBR (c) DC Comics)

 

So it’s as dark and dire a future as that envisaged for Scooby Doo or Wacky Races but with a far glossier sheen and more edgy aesthetic.

Even so, with humanity in a fairly mess predicament, you get the feeling that what will anchor the 6-part comic mini-series, is a real appreciation for the innate humanity of The Jetsons, and how in the midst of mild-dystopia, that it’s family that remains the core point of life experience for everyone.

This element appears to be injected in fairly full-on style as CBR outlines:

“The first few pages establish that Judy is secretly seeing her grandmother in 124-year-old woman’s final moments.The process, which will transfer her consciousness into some sort of machine, is deemed “better” than life. That’s right — storing your memories on a hard drive somewhere is considered superior to the daily pain of mortality, at least in the world of DC’s Jetsons.

“Managing to pack a lot of emotion into very few panels, Conner and Palmiotti establish a strong bond between Judy and her grandmother, showing us how close they are, and how aging is a horrific experience, even in the distant future. Despite Rosemary’s ability to live on as a machine, she feels a deep sadness as she leaves her mortal body. However, it’s her choice: Rosemary wants to die and relegate her memories to technology. She chooses technology over life, an idea which is sadly relatable even now, in the 21st century.”

But it helps ground the series in the sort of real world issues that confront humanity now, and if DC’s Jetsons are any guide, well into the future.

The first issue of Jetsons hits comic book shops on 1 November.

 

 

And if you think a revamped, ultra-modern take on The Jetsons is only happening in comic book form think again. Vulture has revealed that a live-action TV series is in the works on the ABC network in USA, written by Family Guy and Will & Grace’s Gary Janetti. Not only that but Warner Animation Group is looking at a new animated version overseen by Sausage Party’s Conrad Vernon.

 

Chewing Gum: Tracey’s humorously messy take on life

(image via Pinterest)

 

Chewing Gum is quirky.

Undeniably, hilariously, off-the-wall quirky.

But what it also is, and this stops it from becoming a one-trick comedy pony with nothing but quirk to its quirky name, is that it has enough heart-and-soul to fill a few dramas three times as delightfully earnest.

The loosely-autobiographical story of Michaela Coel, who grew up in a dedicatedly-religious Ghanaian family in the Tower Hamlets housing estate in London and poured her experiences into a thoughtfully insightful play Chewing Gum Dreams, Chewing Gum, now available on Netflix, appealingly balances wry, witty insight, a slew of oneliners (many delivered in direct-to-camera monologues) and a knowing understanding and pitch-perfect articulation of what it is like to walk away from the only life you’ve ever known.

Well, the Pentecostal Christian side that is.

For 24 year-old Tracy, played by Coel, is still living on the estate, which she humorously describes as “fake-ass” without any of the social afflictions that blight other housing projects, with her fervently fundamentalist mum Joy (Shola Adewusi), her sheltered but curious sister Cynthia (Susan Wokoma) where Ludo is the entertainment of choice.

Raised in a household that seems to eschew just about everything – her mother, a firm believer in the kind of harsh, unloving Gospel that has gone a long way to rendering the modern church irrelevant and unloved, won’t have a bar of anything but prayer and disapproval – Tracy is anxious to see what life has offer out in the big, wide world.

Or at least, within the confined world of Tower Hamlets.

Her only excursions away from her heavily-circumscribed existence are to see her boyfriend Ronald (John MacMillan), a repressed homosexual who has shirtless pics on Jesus on the wall, and oh yes, one of Tom Daley, who resents his girlfriend with all the passion that only someone living a manifestly fake life can muster, and to the shop where she works.

There must be more to life than this, reasons Tracy in her gorgeously optimistic way – no matter what lands on her, and in some cases its actual faeces and vomit, both delivered in hilariously exasperating circumstances, she somehow manages to gather up a sense that good things lie just around the corner – and so she sets out, with new boyfriend Connor (Robert Lonsdale), a slacker who writes very, very bad poetry in dumpsters, to see what a life unconstrained by the church has to offer.

 

 

Naturally, as is the way of optimistically-fuelled excursions into the great, what-if beyond, things don’t always work out as planned.

In fact, every attempt Tracy makes to expand her limited horizons, especially her non-existent sexual horizons – Tracy is, at 24, still a virgin, a product of the Christian belief that the only good sex is married sex – ends up in often ignominious, laugh-out-loud failure.

What stops Chewing Gum from becoming just a laugh track-less sitcom depiction of London working life – although if that’s all it was, it would still be worth the price of admission – is its deep-abiding emotional authenticity.

Tracy isn’t the butt of jokes, the person consistently shat upon by life’s existential pigeons, just to provide some visual punchline to a scene; rather, she is a person who feels deeply, who honestly wants to go far beyond the trappings of her restrictive childhood faith, and is constantly surprised that real life never quite measures up to her romanticised expectations.

Like anyone, Tracy simply wants a life that means something with someone who, unlike Ronald who comes dangerously close to becoming a permanent feature of Tracy’s life even after they break up, actually cares about her.

It’s this quest for an abiding, unconditional human connection – her mother and sister’s love is quite clearly linked to Tracy’s continued expression of faith, which grows ever more tenuous as the series goes on – something any of us can relate to, that grounds Chewing Gum in a real, heartfelt humanity, and prevents it from becoming simply (although, again, what a great simply it would be) a quirky, sideways tilt look at life on a London housing estate.

You want Tracy to succeed.

Of course, you kind of hope she won’t too since stymied Tracy is a funny creature indeed, all awkward misunderstanding, perplexed, thwarted ambition and possessed of a naivety that her best friend Candice (Danielle Isaie) – along with hunky but well-meaningly sweet boyfriend Aaron (Kadiff Kirwan) and saucy grandmother Esther (Maggie Steed) – continually try to break out of her.

It works to some extent, and Tracy, it must be said, is no emotional idiot, just a little, or a lot, lacking in life experience, so she does learn from her experiences and grows as a person; but she is also, in parts thanks to her good heart and willingness to be honest with herself, willing to admit she comes up short in the grand, gleefully optimistic experiment that is her post-church life.

 

 

At its heart, Chewing Gum is all about growing up.

Way later than everyone else, but then given the strict circumstances of her upbringing, Tracy has a considerable amount of catching up to do.

Anyone who has grown up in a highly-controlled environment and then sought to deconstruct it and rebuild their life away from it will readily identify with both the obstacles and challenges Tracy faces, but also with the clumsy, breathless excitement that comes with thrilling new possibilities opening up before you.

Coel beautifully articulates both stages of this process, the release and the the renewal and how you could often be trapped, messily and in her case, humurously, between these two worlds.

Hollywood would have you believe it’s one smooth, inspirational process but the reality it is anything but, and Chewing Gum takes up into the angst and hilarity of figuring out who you are and what you want from life, way after everyone else has usually begun the process.

It’s funny, heartwarming, insightful and over the top silly at times, but Chewing Gum is never less than delightful, anchored by a central character with a wicked way in oneliners and a strong sense of what she wants (kind of), beautifully fleshed-out supporting characters, and a slightly sudsy soap operatic narrative that for all its surreal moments, never feels than authentically, emotionally real.

 

 

 

Even more Euphoria: Eurovision Asia launches

(image via Eurovision (c) Eurovision Asia)

 

And so it begins …

Eurovision is coming to Asia!

While a launch date and an exact format are yet to be determined, the launch of the official site for the Asian outpost of the great Eurovision Song Contest (brand leveraging here we come!) signals that things are moving along quite nicely in the Contest’s goal to bring it message of love, peace and musical harmony to a region sorely in need of it.

What Asia may lack in harmony between some nations, it more than makes up for with musical creativity, thanks largely to the mammoth South Korean (K-Pop) and Japanese (J-Pop) music industries, with many other countries such as the Philippines making a national sport out of karaoke, a homage to music loving if ever there was one.

It will be able to employ all that love for music and more when 20 countries, drawn from the Asia-Pacific region, compete in a live annual grand final.

The big prize? Well the hoped-for big prize anyway, according to SBS managing director Michael Ebeid (the Australian channel has broadcast Eurovision into Australia for over 30 years), quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald is this:

“Our hope would be for whoever wins Eurovision Asia would get a spot in the final of Eurovision.”

 

 

In a bid to drum up fervent support for Eurovision Asia, the organisers are calling for people to nominate who they would like to see involved …

“Who do you want to see compete in Eurovision Asia? Visit EurovisionAsia.tv and let us know about your favourite Asian music, your favourite singers, songwriters and who you think could win!”

and to get behind the social media that is coming your way!

“In addition to the official Eurovision Asia website, you can also follow the official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to the official YouTube channel.  Don’t forget to use the #EurovisionAsia hashtag to make your voice heard!”

Next stop Asia everyone – or Sydney with a proposal to stage the first event in Sydney; it’s early days yet though so no guarantees – bring your glitter and your love of music and get ready to make a song and dance in Eurovision’s newest incarnation.

(source: Eurovision.tv)

Life is quirky and miserable and just plain weird says Lemon

(image via IMP awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Lemon: a person or thing that proves to be defective, imperfect, or unsatisfactory. Isaac Lachmann is a dud. Isaac Lachmann is 40. Isaac Lachmann is a man in free fall immobilised by mediocrity. His career is going nowhere. His girlfriend of ten years is leaving him. And his overbearing family doesn’t help matters. What did he do to deserve this? Things were supposed to work out differently for him. Isaac Lachmann had big dreams. Now he just watches as life unravels. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Life is pretty confronting isn’t it?

There you are thinking that everything is sailing along beautifully and – WHAM! – it’s all exposed for so much nothingness.

Granted this happens more often in art house films than real life mainly because films of that ilk (which I love) tend to overplay things for dramatic purposes but it doesn’t take away from the central truth that what we expect life will be when we’re younger rarely plays out the way we expect.

The movie looks crazy quirky but also truthful and oddly accessible, something Variety noted in their review of one of the critical darlings of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Lemon is a comedy of miserablism that keeps poking you in the ribs — and, quite often, fails to hit the rib it’s aiming for. Yet it’s a watchable curio, because beneath it all the director, the Panamanian-born Janicza Bravo, has a more conventional sensibility than she lets on. Her style might be described as Theater of the Absurd meets Comedy Central sitcom.”

Good thing is it seems to indicate that all that life falling apart stuff doesn’t have to be end and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way out of the medicore void.

Lemon releases 18 August L.A. and internet and 25 August, New York City.

 

Book review: A General History of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa

(cover image courtesy Penguin Australia)

 

Combining both poetic lyricism and raw emotional vulnerability, A General Theory of Oblivion explores, with poignant insight and an unwillingness to wash everything in a romanticised sheen, what it is like to take a great big step away from the human race.

Through the protagonist, Ludovica Fernandes, who walls herself off in her Luanda apartment as the first throes of Angolan independence wreak their bloody havoc in 1975, and sundry other deeply-engaging interconnected characters, we come to understand what would cause someone to take time out from the messy, chaotic, hurly-burly of life, and why for all its eccentricity of premise, the move is underpinned with some profoundly-affecting motivations.

Agualusa’s masterstroke through every single part of this remarkably beautiful book is to take what could have been a quirky, one-joke premise – there really was a Ludovica Fernandes Mano who died in 2010; while the novel borrows from her diaries, the author assures us the narrative itself is pure fiction – and turn it a ruminative meditation on life, its many coincidental twists and turn, and its capacity to connect seemingly disparate moments into one interwoven tapestry.

“Ludovica never liked having to face the sky. While still only a little girl, she was horrified by open spaces. She felt, upon leaving the house, fragile and vulnerable, like a turtle whose shell had been torn off. When she was very small – six, seven years old – she was already refusing to go to school without the protection of a vast black umbrella, whatever the weather. Neither her parents’ annoyance nor the cruel mockery of the other children deterred her. Later on, it got better. Until what she called ‘The Accident’ happened and she started to look back on this feeling of primordial dread as something like a premonition.” (P. 3)

To be fair, when she bricks off her end of the hallway and erases her apartment from existence, Ludovica, or Ludo as she is often referred to, isn’t thinking about any kind of grand existential statement.

She simply sees her world falling apart her, one she barely knows to begin with thanks to her relatively immigration from Portugal with her sister Odette who falls in love and marries a local “businessman” Orlando – both of who disappear in mysterious circumstances at about the same time – and reacts in an impetuous but wholly sensible, as she sees it, way to stem the tide of destruction.

It’s a move that somewhat salves a great many psychological and emotional issues, thought she is acutely lonely, especially as she is forced to being burning her precious books for light and warmth, but which causes her a great deal of hunger, poverty, loss and deprivation; she is safe certainly, but at what cost?

To her great credit, she doesn’t simply close off her ruminations on that topic, spending copious hours as her eyesight dims and her paper supplies ebb to the point where she is writing on the walls, musing on what has driven her to this point and what it all means.

It doesn’t put food on the table true – that comes courtesy of trapped pigeons, lured to the terrace of her expansive apartment by the sunlit glitter of diamonds left by Orlando – nor does it give her power or water, both of which become perilously unavailable in the post-independence but it does help make sense of her vastly-reduced world.

 

José Eduardo Agualusa (image courtesy official José Eduardo Agualusa Facebook page)

 

As Ludo struggles to get through thirty years of Garbo-esque seclusion, high atop her rapidly-dilapidating apartment block, a cast of characters play out their stories, each of them connected in ways tenuous and painfully direct to each other.

Each of them from onetime police agent of the new repressive socialist regime, now private detective Monte to criminal-turned-reborn man Jeremias Carrasco to Little Chief, a socialist revolutionary who falls afoul of the new powers that be but ends up rich and unwittingly living next to Ludo, play a part, directly or indirectly, in Ludo’s heavily-circumscribed life.

Throughout the pages of what is, for all its relative brevity, a narratively sprawling book that takes in vast sweeps of time and human experience, we come to understand how even when you take a step back from the human race, that you can’t ever truly leave it.

Indeed, when some 28 years later, a 7 year old boy named Sabalu sneaks into Ludo’s apartment via scaffolding erected to gentrify the apartment block next door – socialism is out and capitalism, once again, is in – the reclusive old woman comes to understand the truth of the connectivity of all people.

“If I still had the space, the charcoal, and available walls, I could compose a great work about forgetting: a general theory of oblivion.” (P. 100)

A General Theory of Oblivion, which is punctuated with exquisitely poetic rumination on life courtesy of Ludo’s diary entries, and on two occasions by the emotionally-resonant poetry of Christiana Nóvoa, doesn’t treat this connectivity as some fey morality lesson or glib observation.

Through the experiences of Ludo, Sabalu and so many other engaging people, we come to appreciate that these connections promise as much pain as they do pleasure, that the inherent warmth and love of Monte and his wife Maria Clara is balanced by those who want the former agent of the state, noble though he might be, dead and buried.

It’s this yin and yang of community, and how Ludo, for the most part, seems to have mostly, but not completely, lost out in the roll of its dice, that anchors this luminous, enriching, insightful and beautifully well-written meditation on how being connected to others can both lift and elevate us, while dragging us down and taking to places we might never have imagined, such as a walled-off apartment for 30 years.

That her seclusion is not the end of the story, thanks to Sabalu’s unexpected intrusion, is not necessarily the point of the story; A General Theory of Oblivion is less about where it all leads, though that is important, and more about what happens to us, and those around us, while we are getting there, and the way in which forgetting does not erase the events of our life and the links these create to the people near and far from us.

Drink cranberry juice! There’s a New New New New Doctor in town #LeighLahav

There’s a new Doctor! Really! (image via Patreon (c) Leigh Lahav)

 

You may recall that the BBC recently announced that the Doctor would be regenerating from Peter Capaldi’s distinctly male form to a – gasp! horror! (fake gasp and horror obviously on my part) – woman, specifically Jodie Whittaker, in this year’s Christmas special.

Quite why this was such a surprise is a mystery; after all, we already had a very gender-fluid Gallifreyan gleefully, and winningly, chewing up the scenery in the form of Missy (Michelle Gomez), the female incarnation of the Doctor’s longtime adversary, The Master.

And yet for the precedent this most certainly set, and even given its 2017 and Doctor Who is a sci-fi icon so anything is possible, a number of fans (very Capaldi-like in gender) kicked up a right royal misogynist stink with hashtags like #notmyDoctor briefly gaining some (very) limited currency.

Leigh Lahav, who I support on Patreon – trust me, you should too; she’s a brilliant animator with a very clever and incisive outlook – and who has given us such gems as Peanuts meets Stranger Things and Frozen is the New Black, decided to make merry with this regressive storm-in-a-social-media-teacup in her latest Whovian effort.

It’s every bit as good as you’d expect even given a male gender-obsessed Dalek who can’t get his tin head around a female Doctor.

It’s hilarious but also very instructive and trust me, puts the idiotic attacks on what is a very fine choice by the BBC firmly into a right perspective.

 

Game of Thrones: “Eastwatch” (S7, E5 review)

Jaime Lannister has just seen the bill for war with Daenerys and wondered how much his Star Wars collection was worth (image (c) HBO)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A WHOLE LOT OF SNARK HUNTING AND POWER PLAYING …

Depending on your pop culture references, and these days most of us are a giddy, postmodern swirl of just about everything, “Eastwatch”, a reference to one of the gates watching the snowy nothingness north of the Wall, was a whole lot of “Hunting of the Snark” or “Be vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting wabbits”.

Either way, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), who can now pet dragons with impunity – is he a Targaryan after all? You could see Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) thinking hard on that point as she sat atop Drogon post-battle – is off, with an eclectic bunch of volunteers to bag himself a White Walker, the better to convince Cersei they are not solely the mythical inhabitant of wet nurse’s bedtime tales.

But while the idea is plain in theory – want to convince a sceptic? Give ’em undeniable proof – it ignores two very salient points, both with unsettling corollaries in today’s world.

First, while you can turn up with a gurgling bunch of the sullen undead, hell even the Night Walker himself, the odds of people actually believing pivot very much on whether they want to believe you.

Sure, the proof that Westeros faces issues more pressing than dragon-cataclysmic war, and that the bloody musical chairs for the Iron Thrones is so much rearranging said chairs on the decks of the Titanic, would be well nigh impossible to dismiss; but then that has been said about many things such as round earth vs. flat earth, climate change vs not, and yet people see what they want to see.

Delivering up one White Walker may seem like a masterful stroke of Sherlockian genius but people, such as the Maesters of the Citadel who once again dismissed Samwell (John Bradley) as a raving loony prone to fanciful notions, will see what they want to see, and Jon, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Ser Jorah Maumont (Iain Glen), Gendry (Jon Dempsie) – he’s back, he’s really back! – and the Hound (Rory McCann) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) may well be risking their lives for absolutely nothing.

 

With the would-be Queen looking more and more like all the old kings and queens, Tyrion and Lord Varys mused on the benefits of putting their CVs on Linked-In (image (c) HBO)

 

In fact, we know they are, because after Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) was led, without any forewarning, to a meeting in the bowels of Kings Landing by Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn) with – GASP! – Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), there to convince his brother to convince his sister to meet with Daenerys and a White Walker, Cersei, who may be preggers with their fourth child and happy to shout the dad’s name from the rooftops (look at Jaime smile!), said she had no intention of playing fair.

And there you have it.

No matter how logical and well thought-out the plan to bag a member of the undead army may be, and let’s be fair, it’s kind of thrown together at best, there’s next-to-no guarantee that Cersei will even play remotely by whatever the rules are.

Why she even saw Jaime meeting with Tyrion, a meeting he was deceived into attending by Ser Bronn on the pretext of some sword playing practice, as betrayal, so the seven gods / Lord of Light / Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) on a Three-Eyed Raven White Walker-spotting Bender knows what she’ll do with one of the Night King’s own popping up in King’s Landing.

Sure, given she stands to be wiped from the face of the earth by Daenerys and her dragon children, who proved immune to the hubris of bloody big spears, and she knows it, but she will exploit an in, any in, no matter how necessary or well-intentioned, and Jon and Deanerys may well be preparing the way for, well, a whole lot more bloody furniture arranging on doomed ships.

All these political machinations did raise a very interesting philosophical dilemma – no matter how noble you may be, and Daenerys has proven she is (mostly) as noble as they come, is power, by its very nature, a corrupting influence that no one can resist?

As the 19th century British politician Lord Action rather astutely observed:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

He wasn’t the first to note the corrosive effects of unfettered rule but he worded it so pithily and with such insightful certainty, that it’s the yardstick by which everyone measures anyone’s fitness to rule.

Will they, no matter how good they may be at first, succumb to the siren song of doing whatever the hell they want when they want and anyone who stands against them be damned?

 

Catastrophic war looms … the undead are marching … and there’s a incestuous bun in the oven so naturally Cersei does what anyone would do – she daydreams of dinner with Ryan Reynolds (image (c) HBO)

 

It was a central question for just about contending character in this episode.

When it comes to Cersei, of course, that ship sailed a very long time ago; there is nothing even remotely good about her anymore, as testified by her willingness to try to sabotage, for her her own advantage, a desperate plan to save all the people of Westeros, no matter where they stand when it comes to who occupies the Iron Throne.

Yes, Daenerys is poised to take the throne but Cersei will do what it takes, even doom the land of her birth, if it means holding onto the corrupting reins of power.

And even good old Daenerys, who claims to be holier than thou, but happily burnt Lord Randyll Tarley ( James Faulkner) and son Dikon Tarly (Tom Hopper) to a crisp – hurrah Samwell, newly fled from the Citadel with books and scrolls that may talk about how to kill the White Walkers once and for all, is the new lord – is prone to some mighty suspect behaviour.

So much so that Tyrion and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) took a tea break to discuss whether she wasn’t getting a little too much like dad and Cersei, and less the Warrior Princess of Goodness, Virtue and Nivcely-Folder Tea Towels?

She started out well true and the Unsullied, the Dothraki and sundry other peoples who have willingly followed her will attest to her good intentions, but now? Aren’t all the Lannister men who survived the Big Barbecue only bending the knee to avoid being roasted like a Sunday dinner?

Even Sansa Stark, who is having to contend with Little Finger’s (Aidan Gillen) continued, spied-on by Arya (Maisie Williams) duplicity, is tempted to waste a few lords to cement her authority (and happy to let them trash talk her brother Jon, much to Arya’s dismay).

Yep, power is a seductive potion, one that promises much and whispers that all the goodness and virtue will remain intact but once it is attained, it becomes obvious that it will corrupt; how well you weather that, and even if you can, speaks to your character.

In the end, however, important though these questions are, and they go to the heart of the long and winding tale of Game of Thrones, they will all pale into undead nothingness if everyone doesn’t put it all aside and concentrate on the looming threat that, Machiavellian power-playing or not, continues to bear down on them, rendering all power aspirations effectively moot.

  • There be zombies on the move! Very cold, very angry zombies … you can fight them … or run from them … or, you know, both at once as “Death is the Enemy” unfolds on the snowy wastes north of the Wall …

 

Saturday morning cartoons: Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor

(image (c) Hanna-Barbera Productions)

 

Created by Alex Toth, an American cartoonist whose work successfully bridged the worlds of comics books and Hanna-Barbera cartoons (Space Ghost, Herculoids), Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor was a sci-fi animated series where the title inversely reflected the weighting of the protagonists featured within.

In each episode of this series, which ran from 1967-1969 on CBS (18 episodes in total), there were three segments with Mightor bookending the sole one of Moby Dick, with each full episode lasting a nice child-friendly 22 minutes.

Mightor (voiced by Paul Stewart) was, despite his secondary place in the title, the main hero of the piece, a prehistoric man of superhuman strength and endurability who, along with his fire-breathing dragon sidekick Tog (voiced by John Stephenson) saved the village of chief Pondo (Stephenson again) and daughter Sheera (Patsy Garett), the perennial damsel-in-distress, over and over again.

In reality, Mightor was the transformed version of Tor (voiced by Bobby Diamond) who, thanks to a magical club given to him by an old man he saved, was able to pack on the muscles and the superhero ability, any time he wanted.

As with any hero, he had his fans, particularly Little Rok (voiced by Norma MacMillan), Sheera’s younger brother, who rode through the sky on his bird Ork (Stephenson again), pretending to save the village, sometimes simultaneously with Mightor, which, not surprisingly, caused all kinds of problems.

It was, admittedly not sophisticated storytelling with a grave threat presenting itself – stampeding dinosaurs controlled by an evil, green-eye glowing exiled villager (ep. 1 “The Monster Keeper”) or an invading would-be despot (ep. 4 “Brutor the Barbarian”) – everyone in the village running in fear and Mightor, through overwhelming strength and heroism, saving the day.

Not that he really got thanked for with the prehistoric superhero disappearing off from whence he came and Tor, noticeably absent every damn time, reappearing as he left.

Just like Superman, no one seemed to notice the Tor gone-Mightor there dynamic, and Sheera especially treated Tor like some dissolute, cowardly waste of space, a status he seemed content to endure.

As a young gay man of just 10, I have to admit I was transfixed by how masculine and muscular Mightor, and yes Tor were, although it was something I realised later as an adult; at the time they were simply brave, heroic superheroes who saved the day and vanquished the bad guys every time.

As a kid getting horribly bullied at school for my sexuality, the appeal of a bully-vanquishing hero was undeniable, and so I looked past, aided by the unfiltered adoration of childhood, the repetitive storylines, gender imbalances, clunky narration and exposition – much of the time it’s like being trapped in a cinema next to two old dears who insisted on stating the obvious through every scene of the movie – and the cutsieness of it all.

After Mightor always won out, and who didn’t want that kind of success rate, no matter how old you were?

 

 

Moby Dick on the other hand, while he won out just as regularly as his show mate, was more explorative, over the top fun.

There wasn’t a single tight crevice, or small rocky wall or giant sea creature that Moby, fortunately not pursued by Captain Ahab, couldn’t push his way through, demolish or crush and kill, and so his two human companions Tom Tom (voiced by Bobby Resnick) and Tub (voiced by Barry Balkin) and their dog-like seal pal Scooby (voiced by Don Messick) – cross promotion much? To be fair Scooby Doo did come slightly later – stuck pretty close by.

Oddly they never showed any real inclination to return to their uncle’s ship – not that you ever saw anyway; you had to assume they had or that Moby had officially adopted them which frankly wouldn’t be the weirdest thing ever in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon – a fairly important part of their backstory touched on in the introductory exposition (Mightor had a similar plot-saving intro device).

Regardless of their parenting arrangements, and their dubious ability to stay underwater for ridiculously long period of times, Tom and Tubb were a lot of fun to watch, getting up to all kinds of adventures, pretty much all of which ended in them getting into trouble and having to be saved by Moby while Scooby “barked” ineffectually nearby.

Again, not terribly sophisticated storytelling, and one that featured, through adult lens and sensibilities, a considerable amount of wanton death and destruction – not for Hanna-Barbera the cartoon-esque deaths of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes – and some morally questionable activities (invade an underseas realm and kill the inhabitants when they defend themselves? Why sure!), but delightfully escapist and just what the fleeing-from-the-reality-of-bullying doctor ordered.

Though the characters from the show lived on in various forms after their headlining demise – they guest-starred in the final six episodes of Space Ghost and even had cameos in Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon – Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor was their brief moment in the sun.

Even so for all the brevity of the show, it had a profound impact on me, offering me escapism, bold adventure and characters who were deeply appealing (for all kinds of reasons) and really, as a kid, and yes, even as a semi-critical adult rewatching it and laughing knowingly as its weird plot devices and narrative quirks, that’s all you want from a cartoon show.

 

 

Would a world without people be Angelic? We’re about to find out

(cover art courtesy Image Comics (c) Spurrier / Wijngaard)

 

SNAPSHOT
“Debuting next month from Image Comics, Angelic is set in a future that humans have long since been erased from, leaving nothing but ruins and the highly intelligent animals they experimented on in their wake. One such tribe of animals is a group of religious-winged monkeys, one of whom, a young girl named Qora, doesn’t feel like staying as grounded as her tribe would like. It’s a world populated by crazed cyber-dolphins and numerous other dangers.” (synopsis (c) SYFYWIRE)

A number of years ago, I read a compelling book called The World Without Us by Alex Weisman, which explored in great depth and yet in a brilliantly-written accessabile way what Earth would be like if we just suddenly vanished in an instant.

It was a fascinating, thought-provoking read that addressed how cities would quickly revert to nature, that climate patterns would settle back (hopefully) to pre-Industrial Revolution levels and that this paradisical idyll could be threatened by nuclear power plants breaking down and radiating the planet.

What it didn’t mention was intelligent apes and cyber dolphins with a mean streak; thankfully a beguilingly original new comic book series, Angelic from writer Si Spurrier (The Spire, Godshaper) and artist Caspar Wijngaard (LIMBO, Dark Souls) does and it looks like my new favourite comic book ever.

 

(artwork via SYFYWIRE (c) Image Comics / Spurrier / Wijngaard)

 

Seriously, its clever, insightful and exquisitely well-drawn with some deeply-thoughtful aspirations as Spurrier told SYFYWIRE:

Everyone’s been a child. Everyone’s seen a world of wonder. And everyone’s had the moment—or moments—that they question everything they’ve been taught. These are pretty universal experiences.

“It would be nice to say that Qora’s repressive home-society, with its rather abhorrent attitudes towards females, is just an exaggerated sci-fi version of that same thing: the youth questioning the establishment. But of course we know the world is sadly full of societies—from both edges of the ideological spectrum—who impose their often unhealthy expectations on their youngest members. It sounds weird to say that the experiences of one little monkey with wings could be both universally relatable and extremely timely, but that’s the hope.”

Intelligent, utterly imaginative and gorgeously drawn – what’s not to like?

I can’t wait to pick up a copy and maybe a cyber dolphin while I’m at it.

Angelic releases into awesomely good comic stores on 20 September.

 

(artwork via SYFYWIRE (c) Image Comics / Spurrier / Wijngaard)

 

(artwork via SYFYWIRE (c) Image Comics / Spurrier / Wijngaard)

Now this is music #94: PVRIS, Chase & Status and Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls, Ainslie Wills, Akouo ft. Montaigne

 

Done right, and thankfully so much of it is, music should move you deeply and completely and wholly.

Mind, body and sould should be engaged; you should never hear a song and just go “Oh … that’s nice.” Upbeat songs should move you to dance or turn a dark mood into something a little bouncier. More sombre songs should go into the very marrow of your being, articulating emotions you’re feeling in ways that might defy you at the time.

Whatever the song or genre or mood, it must have some effect on you or it’s just been-there-done-that ear candy of limited value.

These five artists have the ability to craft songs that actually affect you in a real, tangible way; no earworm filler, although the songs are undeniably catchy and listenable, but songs that matter, that evoke, that change you … and make your world a better place, even if only for 3 minutes or so.

 

“Winter” by PVRIS

 

PVRIS (image via official PVRIS Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Lowell, Massachusetts, PVRIS (Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, Alex Babinski, and Brian MacDonald) – once known as Paris, they changed their name citing “legal reasons” – are a lush-sounding rock band with a synth-laden edge.

“Winter”, which you might expect to be dour, cold and, well winter-ish, is, in fact, a barnstormer of a song, picking up more and more pace on its full-speed, melodically-rich course.

It’s one of the lead-singles for their sophomore album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, due out 25 August, and it packs quite a punch, musically and lyrically.

It’s very much in the vein of the band’s music to date which is gorgeously epic, cinematic and drenched in what feels, winningly, like every emotion at once; if you got #allthefeels, then PVRIS are your band.

 

 

“This Moment” by Chase & Status and Blossoms

 

Chase & Status (image via official Chase & Status Facebook page)

 

Keep the epic momentum going, with added harmonies, is “This Moment”, an insanely catchy collaboration between English drum & production band Chase & Status, and Mancurian indie pop band Blossoms.

It has grunt, charm and melody and came about, as many great collaborative endeavours do, as Blossoms front man Tom Ogden, who provides vocals on the track, told NME:

“The collaboration came together really quickly and naturally. It was a good buzz to step out of my comfort zone. I believe the kids call such tunes ‘fucking bangers’.”

Bang it most certainly does, a powerful piece of perfect pop that sweeps you up in its non-stop headiness and doesn’t let you go for a second (not that you’ll be complaining).

 

 

“Use Me” by Goo Goo Dolls

 

Goo Goo Dolls (image via official Goo Goo Dolls Facebook page)

 

To be honest, my interest in the Goo Goo Dolls,until recently, came and went with their luminously-affecting song “Iris (City of Angels)” which provided the musical heart-and-soul of the 1998 film City of Angels.

While in many peoples’ minds, including truthfully my own, they were likely marked as One Hit Wonders, but as “Use Me” beautifully demonstrates, the Buffalo-New York formed, multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band are still producing mightily good music.

In fact, so good is “Use Me” that it will be cycling in and around and through your earworm for days after you first hear it.

It’s giddily upbeat, harmonious as hell – the chorus alone is worth the price of admission – with a bit of ’60s-Roy Orbison-esque thrown in for good measure.

 

 

“Running Second” by Ainslie Wills

 

Ainslie Wills (image via official Ainslie Wills Facebook page)

 

Fresh from wooing the hell out of the UK, festival appearances at the likes of Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival and with her first headline shows in Sydney and Melbourne since 2015 under her belt, Melbournian singer-songwriter, is making waves with “Running Second”.

Anchored by her pure, fresh vocals, enough emotionally-resonance to affect the hearts of anyone lucky enough to hear her songs, and lyrical insightfulness, Wills’s songs are deep, rich and accessible all at once.

“Running Second” is a stunning example of Wills’ craft, delivering up an important message – “The message within it, is dedicated to all of us who feel that for whatever reason, we aren’t good enough.” (source: Triple J Unearthed) – wrapped in sublimely-moving pop that can’t help but move you.

This is pop at its pinnacle and explains why Wills has become increasingly popular, not just in Australia but across the world where people are flocking to listen to real music that means something.

 

 

“Feel That” by Akouo ft Montaigne

 

Akouo (image via official Akouo Facebook page)

 

“Feel That” brings together two brilliant Australian musical talents – producer Akouo (pron. ah-kooh-oh), known for his exuberantly upbeat electronic masterpieces, and the captivatingly-good Montaigne, whose transcendentally-rich voice slips in effortlessly to this immersive piece of pop.

As Purple Sneakers perfectly notes, the song has a lot going for it:

“Montaigne‘s vocals soar benevolently over Akouo‘s masterful, shimmering production, which elegantly pulsates in the background to create a wondrous sound floor. Carefully curated instruments, trumpeting riffs and beating percussion sets a feel for an exotic wilderness, with touches of echoing vocal samples to coagulate the ambience of this soundscape.”

You can well understand why Akouo is attracting so much interest – he pairs the oft-cold bleakness of electronica with a human warmth and analogue brightness that togetherness creates music both winningly ethereal and remote, and intimate and deeply personal.

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

PINK, one of my favourite music artists in the world has a new song, “What About Us?”, a new album Beautiful Trauma out 13 October, and her finger right on the zeitgeist as Vulture points out.

Rejoice and be glad with insanely appealing attitude.

 

 

You know what you’ve been missing all this time? The gang from Sesame Street performing a series of ’80s pop hits. Hole in your soul remedied! (source: Laughing Squid)