Star Wars Episode IX Trailer Reaction

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that Lando is back. He’s flying the Falcon with a big smile on his face, and that is wonderful. When he didn’t appear in Episode VII, I really wanted him in VIII. So, to see him appear in IX warms my heart. My joy is only a little diminished by the fact that he won’t have screen time with Han or Leia. Luke is still possible, though. Anyway, here is the Star Wars Episode IX trailer.


And, here is my reaction:

I loved it, and I am excited for the movie. I am not a TLJ hater, though I recognize it had some issues. However, I think it presented a lot of cool ideas for the Star Wars universe, and tried to remind people the galaxy is big. How successful it was in that regard is something else. But, it took chances, and made us remember that the Force is a living thing that exists everywhere. Plus, all the stuff with Luke was gold, Jerry, gold.

Anyway, back to my Star Wars Episode IX Trailer reaction.

Good things: The Luke voice-over. I will always love hearing old, grizzled Luke talk. Additionally, his voice gives me hope that we haven’t seen the last of the character, despite his apparent demise in The Last Jedi. I want him to be an active force ghost, like Yoda as in the previous installment, mainly because I want him there to troll Kylo at every opportunity.

The image shows Rey running from Kylo's tie fighter in the Star Wars Episode IX trailer

Lando! Did I mention that Lando is back and I love it? Well, he’s back and I love it.

The opening of the trailer with Rey on a desert planet (could be Jakku, could be Tatooine), the lightsaber and Kylo’s fighter bearing down on her! Great stuff.

The image shows Lando flying the Millenium Falcon from the Star Wars Episode IX trailer, and his reactions is as giddy as mine.
Lando in the new Stars Wars movie. He looks as happy as I feel knowing he’ll be there.

Poe and Finn having more screen time together. I am not a ‘shipper, but those two characters have good chemistry. Their lack of shared screen time in Episode VIII didn’t bother me too much, but it will be nice to have them reunited.

Carrie Fisher

That final image and the laugh. Yes, those play off my nostalgia feels more than anything else, but I’m not going to lie; they did their job.

Other Exciting Things

I also like the shot of Kylo repairing his helmet. Why? Because it tells me that he is as trapped in the past as any of us. When put in the context of his remarks to Rey in Snoke’s throne room, it helps us understand that he is just a fool playing at evil.

I am not a Reylo fan, and I hope they don’t get together or are somehow related. However, I do hope he somehow gets his redemption because Star Wars is also about redemption. Reconstructing his helmet indicates he has attachments to the past, which could pave the way for him to return to the light.

Or, maybe that isn’t him rebuilding the mask. Maybe it’s someone else: like Phasma or a hitherto unknown villain. I mean, it’s almost 100% certain Kylo is remaking the mask, but there’s a slight chance it’s someone else.

The glimpse of Kylo Ren we see fighting alongside the stormtroopers intrigues me. I want to know who they’re fighting. Is it rebels? Is it poor villagers like in Force Awakens? I want it to be a contingent of First Order troops loyal to Hux. Just imagine how cool it would be if we got to see some First Order civil war infighting. Having such a subplot in the movie would do a few things.

One, it would give the Resistance/Rebellion time to rebuild, and have their own adventures. Two, it would further develop the rift established between Hux and Kylo and their struggle to lead the First Order after Snoke’s death. Third, we’d get to see evil tear itself apart: another common Star Wars theme.

Final thoughts

This is a short trailer, and ultimately doesn’t show much. Still, the trailer has piqued my excitement to see how the Skywalker saga will end. I am curious about the tittle though. What does ‘Rise of Skywalker’ mean. Is Rey really going to be a Skywalker? Is it a reference to Kylo’s redemption because he’s a Skywalker? Will Luke’s force spirit arise from the remains of his clothes and bestow the Force on the galaxy as the end of TLJ implied?

What other options that I haven’t thought of exist?

This trailer makes it appear that JJ Abrams and co have decided to toss out some things from The Last Jedi, and I am not sure how I feel about that. I know people had problems with TLJ, but it wasn’t as bad as they say, nor was it as great as its defenders say. It was entertaining with some excellent parts and some not so great moments. I do hope, however, that the ideas and answers it gave us remain, otherwise it will feel like a waste of a movie. If nothing from TLJ matters, why have it at all.?

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts and reactions to Star Wars Episode IX trailer. What do you think? Are you excited for this final installment of the Skywalker saga? Are you as happy as I am about Lando’s return? Let me know in the comments.

The New Joker Trailer is Stylish but Boring

I am a huge fan of the Joker as a villain. I really dig his craziness, and he puts forth the contradiction of silly and violent. Plus, clowns are freaky, so he’s got that going for him. However, it is difficult to make a story that features him as the main character. He works best as a villain, a response to the insanity of the world, or the harsh rigid control of Batman. In order for him to stand on his own the audience has to see him as sympathetic. And while that may be possible, it is also misses the point of the character. We should never root for the character, which is what the new Joker trailer clearly wants us to do.

The whole look and feel of the trailer wants to remind us of a 1970s flick about a man whose life is in the toilet, and suffers one too many grievances at the hands of society. In the trailer, goons attack him several times. One time they steal his sign and hit him over the head with it when he gives chase. In another scene, they beat him up on the subway. All of this takes place with his voice over about how the city is going to hell. The call backs to Taxi Driver are blatant. Of course, these comparisons make sense, considering Scorsese’s name came up quite a bit surrounding this movie when DC announced it.

Look, Scorsese has made some good films, and people like his aesthetic, especially his 70s aesthetic. However, I don’t think we need this kind of movie right now.

That’s Not Joker in the New Trailer

Sure, they call him Joker, and he wears a clown mask, and later suit reminiscent of Joker’s style. But really, the character looks to be the Clown Prince of Crime in name only. Joker is a psychopath; a sinister murderer, and rapist. We should never feel sorry for him, or have sympathy for him.

The image shows Joker in the new trailer as he walks down a hall. He is in a stylish suit and wears clown makeup.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. I like his suit if not much else. Click image to enlarge.

In The Killing Joke before he turns into Joker, he’s a chump and a stooge who we don’t feel too sorry for. He maybe deserves our sympathy at that point, but not once he turns into Joker. And how does that happen? He gets pushed into Acme goo and it breaks him. He doesn’t, however, becomes the resident psycho clown of Gotham because he was picked on too much.

Maybe there is some catalyzing event in the film that the new Joker trailer isn’t showing us, but even if there is I don’t know. I don’t need to see another movie about the white guy pushed to him limits and them goes crazy. We’ve seen it in Falling Down (one of my favorite movies, BTW). We also saw it in Taxi Driver. It’s happened in Death Wish, and a variety of other films, and is old hat by this point.

It’s Not a Small Movie

Plus, as arthouse as DC want this movie to look, we have to keep in mind this is a mainstream flick with a wide release. It’s not some indy film that will release in 20 theaters and blow our minds with its choices. It’s a part of a multi-million dollar juggernaut that will just reinforce the white man’s vengeance tale yet again. I am a white dude who tends to enjoy these types of stories, but I don’t need any more of them.

It isn’t necessary to tell a movie where Joker is the hero, or to try to make the audience relate to him. He is the boogeyman, an agent of chaos, insanity in an already insane world. The only Joker stories we should tell are the ones where he gets his comeuppance. Batman handing him his ass? I want to see that. Jim Gordon blowing his kneecap off? Sign me up! Barbara Gordon breaking his spine? I’ll see that movie twice in the theater. Joker is there to hate and despise, not to emulate or adore.

I am not saying audience members will fall in love with Joker in this movie, nor am I saying that’s what DC wants us to do. However, I do find it ambiguous and a little dicey that they have decided to present the new trailer for the Joker movie in this way.

On a positive note, it does have Zazie Beetz in it, and she’s spectacular. Also, Joaquin Phoenix is a good actor, so the performances should be good. It might end up being a good flick, but I won’t be holding my breath.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers


In tabletop role playing games, the term rules lawyer refers to people who know the rules. Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing the rules. If we called everyone who knew the rules a lawyer, then the term would have no meaning. No, rules lawyers are those who know the rules, and how to use them best to their advantage. In horror movies, we also see some kind of rules lawyers, and I want to talk about the top ones. How am I defining the top horror movie rules lawyers? By focusing on characters in movies that have some kind of inside or essential knowledge for survival.

I spent a fair amount of time on this list trying to think of what makes for top horror movie rules lawyers. As stated, they should have some special knowledge of the situation, and how to solve it. For example, if they are fighting vampires, they should know the rules governing vampires. Also, they should be a little weird or goofy. Finally, they shouldn’t be the main character, but rather the person the main character seeks for assistance.

Beyond just knowing the rules, they should be able to explain them in such a way that makes sense to the characters and audience members. If they can’t express themselves, then they are no good when the villains come hacking and slashing along.

I present this list in no particular order, but rather organized in the order they came to mind.

The First of the Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers

Chuck from You Might Be the Killer.

The image shows Chuck from You Might be the killer. She is talking on the phone. Played by Alyson Hannigan, she is the only woman top horror movie rules lawyers on this list.
Chuck. She knows all there is to know about Horror. You Might Be the Killer 2018. Click image to enlarge.

She is the character that inspired this list. I was watching You Might Be the Killer, and she came on as the expert in all things slasher and supernatural. I liked this element of the movie the best. The less said about the rest of the flick the better. Anyway, when Alison Hannigan appeared as the know it all, I laughed with glee. Sure, she was basically reprising early seasons Willow from Buffy with the smart and snark, not that I minded.

Why did her appearance delight me? Well, because it’s Alyson Hannigan. Beyond that, though, it made me realize that the majority of horror movie rules lawyers are men. It was refreshing to see a woman fulfill the role of the horror know it all.

Chuck knows her stuff. She works in a comic books store, has seen what seems like every horror movie ever, and has access to eldritch literature. From the moment she walks on screen the audience knows she knows what’s up. Let’s look at the criteria:

  • She knows the rules, knows the loopholes, and she knows how this story ends and that there will be a sequel.
  • Chuck is weird. She may not come off as weird, but she is. Her friend tells her people are dying all around him, and it barely fazes her. Also, like the Frogs (discussed below), she works in a comic book store.
  • She uses her knowledge to help the characters. She can’t help directly because she is so far away, but she gives them they need to succeed.

Chuck clearly has all the qualifications and deserves to be on this list.

The Second Horror Rules Expert on my List

The picture shows Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, one of the top horror movie rules lawyers
Still of Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing from Dracula 1992. Click image to enlarge.

First on the list is Van Helsing. In fact, he might be the earliest example of a character to fill the role of the rules lawyer in a horror movie. Does he fit the criteria? Let’s check.

  • Knows the situation
  • Is an academic, a foreigner, and a little weird
  • Tells the others what’s up with Dracula and how to kill vampires

So, yes, Van Helsing fits the criteria with flying colors. He understands the powers and blood lust of his adversary and lets the others know. Without Van Helsing’s involvement, Dracula wins.

He may seem like an odd choice, but it is clear he belongs on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers.

The Next Movie Rules Experts on the List

This one is a double because where there is one Frog, there is another.
The Frog brothers from The Lost Boys.

The picture shows the Frog brothers warning Sam about the monsters in Santa Carla something all good horror movie rules lawyers need to do.
Edgar and Allen Frog Warn Sam that there are Vampires Everywhere! in Santa Carla.
The Lost Boys 1987. Click image to enlarge.

These two youthful monster hunters seem to be the only ones who know what’s going on in Santa Carla, and they don’t hesitate to let newcomers know it. They are gritty and snarly in the way only 80s screen malcontents could be.

Also, they have one of my favorite lines when discussing what happens when vampires die: ‘No two blood suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But, all will try and take you with them.’ It’s hilarious, and true.

How do they fit into the criteria for my list?

  • The Frogs know their stuff. They tell Sam about garlic, holy water, stakes through the heart, and even give him required reading.
  • The Frogs are weird and creepy social outcast types. They snarl and work in a comic book shop, and look at their camouflage clothing!
  • The Frogs help Sam and Michael understand the vampire threat and participate in battling the undead.

The grandpa from this movie almost made this list. He’s idiosyncratic, goofy, and a little weird. He also knows what’s going on in town, and he even kills a vampire. However, he doesn’t share his knowledge with the rest of the characters, nor does he help, so that keeps him off this list.

Enter Evil Ed, Template for Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers

Evil Ed Fright Night 1985. Click image to enlarge.

No discussion of the modern day horror rules lawyer would be complete without mentioning Evil Ed. If Van Helsing is the original horror rules lawyer, Ed brings he archetype to the modern era. As Charlie Brewster’s best friend in Fright Night, Ed fills the role of sidekick. Additionally, he is clearly a weirdo, thanks to his laugh, fashion choices, and hairstyle. Ed is the walking embodiment of 80s creepy geek weirdo.

Some people might argue that Ed doesn’t completely fit the mold because he doens’t know much more about vampires than Charlie does, nor does he believe in the monsters as much as his friend. I concede those points, however; I argue that Ed matches the criteria.

  • He is a weirdo and a sidekick.
  • Ed knows about the monsters and how to fight them.
  • He joins Charlie in his investigation into the vampire next door.

Ed may not be as heavily into the rules of horror as some of the other characters on this list, but he clearly acts as an inspiration for those who followed in his footsteps.

Finally, Randy from Scream

In a decision as predictable as it is necessary, Randy is my last entry on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers. If you had any doubt I was going to mention him, then I don’t know what to say, except watch more horror movies.

The picture shows Randy from Scream, probably the most well known of all the  horror movie rules lawyers.
Randy talking about one of the many horror rules at his disposal. Scream 1996. Click image to enlarge.

If Van Helsing is the first of these types of characters, and Evil Ed brought them into the modern world, then Randy is the culmination. (I know Anthony Hopkins played Van Helsing before Scream came out, but I am talking about characters here, not portrayals.) Randy lays out the ruled clearly and succinctly, and he gets to do so three times. Maybe four, I forget if they somehow got him to add rules to Scream 4, though I don’t think so.

Randy is probably the first character many people thought of when they saw this list, and rightly so. He made a huge impact on pop culture and the horror genre specifically. After Randy’s introduction, the idea that there were rules to survive a horror movie exited the subconscious of fans, and came squealing into the public sphere.

Let’s look at how he fits the criteria:

  • Geeky Weirdo who works at a movie store
  • Knows all about slashers and shares his knowledge with the gang
  • Doesn’t help at first
  • Tries to help in the second film and dies

So, yes, Randy qualifies, despite his lack of helping others in the first Scream movie. Still, he passes the rest of the criteria with flying colors, so he clearly belongs on this list. I suppose you could argue otherwise, but you would have a hard time persuading me.

Top Paralegals of Horror Movie Rules

I inevitably left some characters off this list either because I didn’t remember them or because I didn’t think they fit.

One character that springs to mind is Columbus from Zombieland. Yes, he offers a lot of rules to the audience, and I can see why that would make him seem like he qualifies. However, his rules aren’t really zombie specific, and even the ones which are, the other characters already know. He doesn’t share new or helpful information, check the back seat notwithstanding.

Plus, this list specifically cites sidekick status, and Columbus is clearly a lead character, so he doesn’t qualify.

When I was thinking about this list I asked some people on Twitter for their input and someone mentioned Tony Todd’s character from the Final Destination films. In my head that sounds right, but I haven’t seen those movies in forever. Therefore, I can’t agree in good faith.

What do you think of the list? Anyone you would argue against? Who would you add? Let me know in the comments.


Glow Comic from IDW Shines on Page

Glow, the Netflix series based on the real life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is on break right now. However, we are not without their hi-jinx, thanks to the Glow Comic from IDW, which tells a new story. Now, adaptations like these often leave me cold because the translation from screen to page doesn’t always work.

The picture shows the cover for the first issue of the new Glow Comic. Featured are the cast of characters in all their glory.
Glow #1 written by Tini Howard, Art by Hannah Templer, and Colors by Rebecca Nalty. Click image to enlarge.

In this case, however, the creative team behind the comic does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the show and characters’ voices. Sure, it is not the same as watching the show, but comic book Glow is better than none at all.

Ruth, as always, is the character that shines the most. She has the perfect mix of sincerity and gumption that makes for a sympathetic and pathetic character. Additionally, she often tries to get thing s done, but usually just makes them worse.

The first example of Ruth’s over-zealousness is when she goes into Sam’s office to make sure that the team really has a free weekend. Unbeknownst to her, Sam is sleeping in the office. He wakes up, catches her, and then announces that the team has a weekend gig.

Sam is quite often the equivalent of human garbage, and that characterization continues. Not only will the ladies not earn any money for the weekend job, they actually have to pay him money for the privilege of going. Unless, of course, they want to lose their jobs.

A page from the glow comic that demonstrates how awful Sam can be. The picture shows a promotional poster and the ladies arguing about the money.
Sam showing he is awful. Words by Howard, art by Templer, Colors by Nalty, and letters by Christa Miesner. Click image to enlarge.

Glow Comic Ladies Raise Money

The need for 75 dollars each is the inciting incident for this issue as the women must raise the money or risk losing their jobs. Raising money is not a new concept for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

In order to raise cash, Ruth and Debbie don their wrestling outfits and try to solicit cash from passerby. Debbie isn’t into it at first, but Ruth tackles her, starting an impromptu wrestling match on the street. As you might expect, they get the money.

Other schemes include Melrose, Beirut, and Fortune cookie making and selling pot brownies. Britannica enters a barroom quiz contest, in which she does horribly.

The rest of the team also manage to raise the money, and the team is ready to go to the big event.

The picture shows Britannica getting every answer wrong as she tries to earn money by answering quiz questions. Bash looks on in confusion.
It’s an easy joke to make, but it lands anyway. Plus, the art is so cute and whimsical that it assists with the laugh. Click image to enlarge.

Why Should You Read Glow?

You might be asking yourself why you should read this comic. The answer is simple: it’s fun to read and pleasure to look at. The art has a manga feel to it, which some people don’t like. Those people are wrong, but I digress. The look of the artwork helps capture the silly spirit of the source material, and the bright crisp colors pop on the page.

Every element of this issue works well together. The creative team clearly knows what they are doing. Plus, there is an ominous cliffhanger that sets up the next issue.

If you need more GLOW in your life (and who doesn’t?) pick up this comic.

Have you read it? Got something to say? Leave me a comment.



Genesys Magic: Powerful Spells, Generic Worlds

In 2017 Fantasy Flight Games released their Genesys Role Playing game. As a generic system, it is suitable for any world you can dream of. All you need is your imagination. I love the Genesys system for a variety of reasons, but one of the things I love most about it is how it handles magic.

The Genesys core rulebook. Here you will find how to cast powerful magic.

In so many tabletop role playing games, magic can be confusing, under-powered or overpowered, or both. Often time it depends on how much a character can learn, and what spells they prepared. This is all well and good, as far as it goes. However, it often falls into the trap of spell casters being weak at low levels and super strong at higher ones.

The Genesys magic system solves this issue in an intriguing and novel fashion. Unlike Dungeons and Dragons or other games with magic, Genesys does not have spell lists. Characters don’t learn or memorize spells. They don’t have spell slots to fill or even spell levels.

How Does Genesys Magic Work?

When you want to cast a spell in this system, you just say you are going to cast a spell. Simple, right? In fact, it might be a little too simple, but that’s where the fun comes in. Under the rules, characters can cast spells for any reason, mundane or fantastical.

However, when you cast something that would replace a skill, the target number is higher. The reason for this is to keep magic from becoming a catch-all replacement for other skills. Basically, it keeps spell casters from abusing their mystical abilities. So yes, a player could use magic to unlock a door, but the task is more difficult for them than someone using a lock-picking skill.

I can hear you asking: If you don’t learn spells, how can you cast them? That’s where the genius of this system shines. As I wrote above, you simply say you want to cast a spell and roll the dice. Sure, there’s a bit more to it than that, but not much.

The image shows the special dice the genesys system uses, and you will need them to cast powerful magics.
Genesys uses special dice, but don’t be intimidated. They are easy and intuitive, and once you grasp them the doorway to fun opens.

First, you decide what kind of spell you want to cast, or what the effect you want to happen. For example, if you want to charm an NPC into following your bidding, you describe what that spell would do. Genesys is a narrative system and is therefore quite open in terms of what players can and can’t do.

Example of Social Spell Casting

Let’s take the example of the charm spell I mentioned above. In the rule book there are categories of spells, but no specific spells. The categories are attack, augment, barrier, conjure, curse, dispel, heal, and utility. Most of these categories are self-explanatory, but none of them clearly indicate where our charm spell would come into play.

So, let’s say we want to charm our opponent using utility magic. First, we find our magic skill: it will either be Arcane, Divine, or Primal (the three types of magic in the basic Genesys rules). Then we decide upon the difficulty of the task.

Looking at our character sheet we see that charm is a social skill. This automatically increases the difficulty by one purple die. This is an opposed roll against an opponent’s Cool skill, so you would add one to their skill in order to account for the increased difficulty.

Now, we need to differentiate between the effects of the spell version of charm is compared to the skill. Because we are dealing with magic, the GM might rule that the spell is harder to resist than the skill and award the caster a blue boost die. Or, the GM might decide that the charm effect last longer or allows the caster a greater amount of control over the target if they succeed.

Once the dice pool has been assembled, you roll the dice, read the results, and decide what happens. Success could mean that the spellcaster can issue orders to the target, or turn them into a friend. As a potential drawback: failure could mean the targeted opponent cannot be the target of a charm spell or skill for a certain amount of time. It’s up to you, and that’s what makes Genesys so fun.

What About Combat Magic in Genesys?

Most players don’t play spell casters in order to run around charming town folk or unlocking bolted doors. Yes, you can use the mystic arts in these situations, but let’s face it, if you’re playing a magic user, it’s because you want to wreak havoc with powers no mere mortal should possess. Well, not to worry, this system has you covered in warm blankets on a cold day.

There are several possibilities for destructive combat magic under these rules. And, once again, the rule book is just the beginning. Really,your imagination (and how far the GM will let you take things) is your only limit.

There are several types of combat magic in this system, but I am going to focus on spells used for attacks as they are the most likely to come into play.

Casting a combat spell is similar to the mode used for casting a social one with a few key differences.

This picture shows the chart for powerful magic spells in the Genesys core rulebook. There are several options for spell enhancement mentioned on the chart.
Gaze at the wondrous possibilities for powering up your spells, and this is only the beginning. Click picture to enlarge.

As with any skill check using the Genesys system, you first have to find your relevant skill. In this case, it will be one of the mystical skills: arcane, primal, or divine. Once you know that, you have a better idea of how successful your spell will be.

Once you have determined your skill level, you now need to decide how powerful you want your spell to be. All spells start at difficulty level one (1 purple die). For additional effects, you add purple die to the die pool to simulate the increased difficulty. You can increase the range of your spell, add a quality such as fire or ice to it, give it an area of effect property, or more.

The Price of Spell Casting

Magic has a price in Genesys, no matter how powerful it is. There are a few reasons for this. One, if magic was not limited in some way, player would easily abuse it. That’s nothing against players, just a fact about people. If you give someone something that can break the world, they will probably try to do just that.

Two, if magic had no limits, then there would be little reason to play anything other than a spell caster. By adding limits to magic, the creators have ensured that the other classes remain viable options.

Third, magical limitations make the player think twice about using spells when other options exist. Magic should not be a means to solve every problem a group encounters, and it definitely shouldn’t be an easy means to do so.

How does Genesys solve this problem? Well, it makes magic dangerous to use by inflicting immediate strain damage to the caster. Strain is a measure of your ability to undertake difficult tasks. You can recover strain fairly easily, but it also runs out quickly, and if you run out, you fall unconscious.

Additionally, using magic to accomplish mundane tasks is more difficult than using a similar skill. Furthermore, if the GM deems appropriate, the character can suffer further strain from spell casting, or have any other number of damaging effects occur. All of these are ways to mitigate the potential game breaking ability of magic.

Worth a Try

If you have been looking for a different kind of magic system that allows for supercharged spells but is easy to use, check this one out. Overall, the Genesys system is fun and sensible. Their version of magic is no exception.

Have you used this system? What are your thoughts on it? What do you think of my thoughts on Genesys magic and what it can do? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading.

A Darkened Wish Brings D&D to Comics

Written by B Dave Walter with artwork by Tess Fowler, Dungeons and Dragons A Darkened Wish is a D&D campaign in comic book form. Jay Fotos provides the colors, and Tom B. Long does the letters. The grand daddy of table top role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons has seen a resurgence over the past decade.

Rat Queens, which Fowler provided artwork for, was an original story set in a fantasy world. Its characters included a fighter, cleric, wizard, and thief. All of which are staples of the standard adventuring party.

A Darkened Wish exists as an official D&D product, letting readers know what to expect. The story opens with the coming of a large battle. We don’t know the reasons for the battle, but we know it will be epic.

The picture shows the first page of A Darkened Wish. We see three boats carrying many monsters ready for battle.

I love the look of this page. The action flows upward from the large figures in the foreground toward the back, pulling the readers focus. The triangular design of the page greatly assists this effect. As the scene recedes, the detailed artwork becomes fuzzy, however; the details we can see are gorgeous. Fowler does an excellent job of making the reader feel the tension and excitement of the moment before the bloodshed starts.

Questions about the scene are many? What is going on? Who are these armies? Why are they fighting? These questions do not get fully answered in this issue, but if they did we wouldn’t need the rest of the series. While A Darkened Wish #1 doesn’t answer the many questions about the nature of the battle, it does provide plenty of intriguing history, and builds suspense. This causes us to want to read further in order to discover the answers.

A Darkened Wish Adventuring Party

Before the battle begins in earnest, we meet a few of the book’s main characters, but we still know next to nothing about them. After this brief introduction, they join the battle, demonstrating considerable power. Still, we don’t know enough to say much about them, other than they seem heroic.

Enter the flashback, which also happens to be the bulk of this issue. First, we meet Helene arguing with her grandfather about her life. He wants her to stay and undergo something called the Ascension, but Helene wants to live her own life. Begrudgingly, her grandfather lets her go, giving her a necklace. Helene leaves and soon encounters her two best friends: Aiden and Xander who decide to join her on her adventure.

The picture shows the three main characters of A Darkened Wish agreeing to adventure together.
Never Split the Party. That’s how the DM gets you.

The rest of the issues tells of their first adventure and friends they meet. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this issue feels very much like how a Dungeons and Dragons campaign goes. You start off young and a little powerful. Then, you go on adventures, meet friends, make enemies, and gain more power.

Role Playing as a Visual Story

The creative team has done a wonderful job of making this feel like a role playing adventure without having the characters name spells or classes. No one says, I’m Helene and I’m a sorcerer, which is something that they could have easily done. All of the characters are fully realized and distinct. This book is accessible to those who like fantasy comics but know nothing about Dungeons and Dragons. Plus, the artwork is consistently fantastic and contains amazing detail.

If you like fantasy comics and/or table top role playing games, check this series out. Issue 1 came out today, so check with your local comic book store. It’s also available on comixology if you prefer the digital experience.

Have you read this? Do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for visiting.


Ben Daimio’s Greatest Moments

Appearing soon in the upcoming Hellboy film, Ben Daimio was first introduced to the world in the B.P.R.D. comic series, The Dead #1 (BPRD series issue #13). He stayed with the team until B.P.R.D. Killing Ground #5 (series issue #38). Here are some of Ben Daimio’s greatest moments.

I am not sure if he ever became a fan favorite, but I do know I liked his character. I also know that I don’t ever recall him teaming up with Hellboy, but I understand that movies and source materials are different entities, so I don’t mind him showing up in the new movie. After leaving the team, Daimio makes several appearances as a recurring charter. There are, of course, spoilers in this post.

Great Moments with Ben Daimio #1

The beginning is a good place to start, so that’s what we’ll do here. It is difficult to beat Daimio’s introduction to the readers and team members of B.P.R.D. We see him slice his way out of a body bag. He’s a man with a big scar on his face and a big knife in his hand. Talk about a hell of a way to make an entrance.

The first of many of Ben Daimio's greatest moments. The image shows him slowly cutting himself out of a body bag over the course of four comic book panels.
BPRD The Dead #1 art by Guy Davis, colors by Dave Stewart, lettering by Clem Robins. Click image to enlarge

We don’t know anything about Benjamin Daimio at this moment, except that he just cut himself out of a body bag and seems to be just as confused as we are. As far as first impressions go, this is memorable. The panel progression of Davis’s art enhances the impact. He could have drawn the knife easily ripping through the bag, and having the bag fall away.

But, the small puncture leading to the rip, and finally the reveal is more effective. It build suspense–what is coming out of that bag?–while the addition of the POP sound effect and the doctor’s reaction gives us something to laugh at.

We soon learn that he is a consultant to special ops, and is going to be leading the B.P.R.D. To say that Liz Sherman is less than thrilled about this is an understatement. For the majority of Ben’s time with the team, he and Liz will but heads in an antagonistic relationship. Despite this, they also show respect for each other and know that it is in the team’s best interest to work together.

Ben Daimio’s Best Moments #2

His friendship with Roger. Throughout his tenure with the team, Daimio had an impact on every member, but none so great as on Roger the
Homunculus. Roger needs structure, and Daimio offers him that. There are too many great Roger and Ben moments to list them all here, but there are a few I want to look at.

The first one is when the team meets Daimio. They have just seen a video of him ripping his way out of the body bag, and then he steps into their offices and introduces himself.

The image shows one of Ben Daimio's greatest moments when he first meets the BPRD team, including Roger, and tells him to put pants on
BPRD The Dead #1 Click image to enlarge

I love this sequence. It shows that Daimio doesn’t want to rock the boat, but also that he is clearly in charge. Plus, he doesn’t like his squad mates to be pantsless. There’s a lot of characterization happening in these five panels, even if Daimio is still a mysterious character.

Another great moment with Daimi and Roger (their friendship was too short-lived due to Roger’s untimely demise–I told you there were spoilers in this post) is in B.P.R.D. The Black Flame #1 (series issue #18)

First we see Daimio strike a match and light a cigar.

Another one of Ben Daimio's greatest moments, his growing friendship with Roger
B.P.R.D. The Dead #1 Art by Guy Davis, colors by Dave Stewart, lettering by Clem Robins. Click image to enlarge

Next, we see almost the exact same shot, only this time it is Roger who strikes the match and lights the cigar. The parallel between him and Daimio jumps out at the reader. Roger is detailing what comes next in the war against the frog monsters that are plaguing the B.P.R.D. and threatening the world at large.

The image shows one of the greatest moments of Ben Daimio smoking cigars and building friendship with Roger
B.P.R.D. The Black Flame #1 Click image to enlarge

These moments encapsulate the friendship between Daimio and Roger.

Daimio’s Greatest Moments #3 Secret Revelation

Another one of Ben Daimio’s greatest moments is when readers learn his secret. Mystery shrouds Daimio from the moment of his introduction, and that mystery only grows the more time we spend with him. There are hints that something dark lurks in him, though the nature of the darkness remains unknown for quite a while. He undergoes acupuncture, the purpose of which seems to be to keep him calm.

Now, he has a stressful job and is dealing with some cosmic horror shit, so of course he is going to be a little stressed. However, if it seems that there’s more going on with him, there is.

Turns out: he’s a werejaguar.

The picture shows a large monster surrounded by flames. The monster is Ben Daimio, and this revelation is one of his greatest moments in the BPRD series.
BPRD Killing Ground #4, Art by Guy Davis, colors by Dave Stewart, lettering by Clem Robins. Click image to enlarge.

What makes this one of Ben Daimio’s greatest moments? First, the artwork and the page composition. The flames threaten to overwhelm everything in the panels. We see and feel the confusion. Beyond the flames, we see the giant monster in the background, and we don’t yet know who or what it is. Then in the bottom panel, we see the tell-tale scar of Captain Daimio, and we know who it is, even if we don’t want to believe it. We have danger and tragedy in one page, and it is awesome.

Another reason this revelation is so good is because of what it leads to. For the remainder of this issue, the werejaguar runs loose throughout the BPRD headquarters, and much violence and death ensue. It’s bloody, action packed, and exciting: everything you want from such a revelation.

The Last of Ben Daimio’s Greatest Moments

His showdown with Daryl the Wendigo. Daryl is another tragic monster, who, like Daimio, is a victim of circumstance and a shape changer. Daryl was the victim of a different Wendigo, and he now carries the curse. The only way to break the curse is killing someone else, but Daryl is a decent fellow and does not want to do that.

When he and Daimio meet in battle it is because Ben can no longer bear the burden of his curse and he wants to die at Daryl’s hands. He knows that only Daryl is strong enough to kill him, and he cannot bring himself to commit suicide.

The fight is violent and epic and takes full advantage of comics as a medium. Here’s a snapshot:

The picture shows Ben Daimio in his werejaguar form fighting Daryl the Wendigo. There is blood and biting and clawing in this, the last of Ben Diamio's greatest moments.
BPRD Hell on Earth: The Long Death # 3 Art by James Harren, Colors by Dave Stewart, Letters by Clem Robins. Click on image to enlarg

This fight is visceral and emotional. Despite the fact that both of these characters are monsters, we readers have grown attached to them. Knowing that this fight results in the death of one or both of them adds a further level of emotional involvement. In the end, Daryl wins and Daimio lies dead on the ice. It is a poignant and heartbreaking moment, especially as it is unclear of Daimio will return as a Wendigo, or if Daryl is still wandering around the icy waste, plagued by his curse.

These are some of Ben Daimio’s greatest moments. Do you have any you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Curse of the Infernal Body Clock

The curse of the infernal body clock is an idea I had for a curse type spell for a tabletop role playing game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, or any setting with magic. I got the idea from something somebody said on twitter about not being able to sleep, and I came up with this as a joke. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. So, I decided I would write about it.

The Infernal Body Clock

Lore: Created by the sorceress Milgraf Alfgahee, the curse is an inconvenience at best and deadly at worst. Alfgahee created the spell because she was tired of adventurers invading the forest where she lived. They came at all hours, stomping through the dirt, snapping and trampling the foliage, and generally being careless jerks.

Now, Milgraf was a powerful sorceress, but she was also a pacifist, and because of that she didn’t want to directly harm those who trespassed in her forest. Still, she couldn’t just sit back and allow them to move through her home without reproach. So she did what any good magic using pacifist would. She created a spell that would do the violent work for her.

the image shows a bunch of poorly drawn and painted trees which is the home of the creator of the curse of the infernal body clock
Milgraf’s home, poorly rendered

Creation

Creating the curse of the infernal body clock was simple. People need to sleep, and they need to be awake. Milgraf thought if she could somehow control that, then her home would be safe. So, she searched her woods for a variety of ingredients that she could use to force sleep on her enemies. But, just putting them to sleep wasn’t enough.

She also wanted to make it difficult for them to go to sleep, or to wake up. An adventurer who can’t resist falling asleep in the heat of battle will surely meet his doom quite easily. And an adventurer who can’t wake up when it’s time runs the risk of alienating her traveling companions and having a falling out with the group. Both of these circumstances fit Milgraf’s purpose perfectly, and so she created the curse of the infernal body clock.

Once she gathered the needed materials, she cursed her forest, ensuring any who caused harm to the place would fall victim to her vengeance. Thus began the story of how her woods were haunted, but that is a different story for a different time.

How It Works

The curse sets the victim’s body clock to a certain time of day. When that time passes, the victim must make a difficult check against their willpower, or willpower like ability. As this is a generic curse, which stat you use will depend on the system you are playing.

If the check succeeds, everything is fine and the victim of the curse can go about their business until eight hours have passed. After this eight hour period, the victim must make another check. This continues every eight hours. If the victim is asleep, the check is to see if they wake up. If they are awake, the check is to see if they fall asleep. Once the victim is asleep, they are nearly impossible to wake up–the circumstances of which are left up to the Dungeon/Game Master.

Breaking the Infernal Body Clock

The only known way to break the curse is to convince Alfgahee to lift it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to be willing to do that. Until she is, anyone suffering from the curse must continue to suffer. Sure, maybe an act of divine intervention, or powerful magic could lift it, but no one knows for sure.

One thing is for sure, the curse is dangerous and inconvenient. It has the potential to topple the most powerful fighter in a matter of moments, or to break up adventuring parties due to inability to perform basic duties. It’s like magical narcolepsy, and there are plenty of fun situations in which it could be highly entertaining.

So, that’s the curse of the infernal body clock. I hope you liked reading about it, and if you end up using it, or something it inspired, in one of your games, let me know how it went.

Thanks for reading, and for putting up with my bad artwork. I am not an artist.

Brie Hermelin, AKA Pickled Cheese

When I lived in the Czech Republic, I had the chance to try delicious Hermelin, or pickled cheese. It’s been a while since I’ve had it, and I no longer live in the Czech Republic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. Here is the recipe I used for brie hermelin (I used brie instead of Camembert because I couldn’t find the latter), in case you want to make your own without reading this blog post. I understand, nothing worse than those cooking sites that give you their life story before getting to the good stuff.

I do hope you stick around, though, because I took the time to write this post, and because I made mine a little different. Plus, there’s lots of pictures in this post, so you’ll have something pretty to look at.

Prepare the Brie Hermelin

I started by slicing the brie in half, of course. How else would you do it?

the picture shows four boxes of brie cheese for hermelin

the picture shows the brie sliced in two halves down the center

So far, so good and easy, but then that’s the thing about hermelin, whether it’s made from brie or Camembert it’s easy to make. After slicing the cheese width wise, I then added the garlic, chili powder, and salt. It looked like this.

this picture shows a round of brie sliced in two with garlic, chili powder, and salt on top of it

Doesn’t it look pretty? I told you there were going to be a lot of pictures in this post. After this, I put the two halves back together and stuck a toothpick in them in order to help them stay together. It kind of worked, though the first round I put in the mason jar split open a little bit. It’s fine, though, as the garlic and spices will just serve to season the whole batch.

Before I put the cheese in the jar, the jar, I put some bay leaves, ground black pepper, and ground szechuan pepper in the base of the jar. I didn’t have allspice, and I couldn’t find the suitable ingredients for a substitute. I am sure this will be fine, though. Then I placed the first prepared brie round in the jar. I repeated the process of preparing the brie for hermelin with the remaining three cheese rounds.

Don’t Forget the Onions and Peppers

After I put the first prepared round in the jar, I added the onions and hot peppers. I may have gone a little overboard on these things, but that’s okay. I think. I’ll have to wait to until it’s ready to eat to find out for sure.

I used both white onions and red onions because I like both, and I used a lot of hot peppers. I like spicy food, but this could be too spicy. Too spicy? Possible, but unlikely.

Add the Oil for Health Reasons

Not really. There isn’t much healthy about brie hermelin, or any hermelin for that matter. Sure, the onions and garlic add a little bit of health benefits, but we’re dealing with cheese here; cheese drowning in oil, to be exact.

this photo shows the final product, brie hermelin sitting in a jar filled with onions, bay leaves, hot peppers and sunflower oil

And that’s it. My homemade version of hermelin in China. I hate that I have to wait 3-5 days for to soak up the flavors and be ready. I want to eat it now. Oh well, good things come to those who wait, and all that. Also, I won’t be able to eat it with the rye style Czech bread because I couldn’t find that, either.

So, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and if you have any pointers on how to improve my next batch, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

The Sinister Story of Mr Obdurate

The sinister story of Mr Obdurate; written by Juan Manuel Ponce @ElOzymandias, with art by Craig Cermak @craigcermak. Dee Cuniff @deezoid provides colors, and Micah Myers @MicahMyers letters. The four team members work together in seamless fashion to tell a story that is provocative, implicitly violent, and more than a little spooky.

The first page sets the stage nicely. As readers, we don’t know what is going on, but we know it’s no good. ‘Fuck.’ It can mean so many things, and evoke so many emotions. Here, placed in the darkness and coming from a solitary figure, we feel the badness of it. We sense the isolation of the man in the car, and his pain. Cermak’s art paints a picture, focusing on the man’s grimace and closed eyes. He has to do something he doesn’t want to.

The next panel continues to build the sinister feeling of the story of Mr Obdurate by showing us a small diner, Mel’s at night. Christmas decorations fill its windows. The man from the car approaches the diner. We still don’t know what’s going on, therefore, our sense of unease increases.

The bottom panel doesn’t provide much more information, only that the man is meeting someone. However, the caption blocks inform the reader that there is danger, and they belong to the sinister story of Mr Obdurate. In addition to building the suspense of the story, the bottom panel also lets us in on the twist of the comic. The man in the car who we watched enter the diner is not the main character.

Mr Obdurate page one, it shows a man in a car in top panel, a diner in a darkened parking lot in the second panel, and the inside of the diner in the third panel

Sinister Images Tell Compelling Story

Comic books are static works. They have no movement or motion, and thus they often require a lot of action to keep the reader’s interest. If they don’t have action, then they need snappy dialogue. Mr Obdurate leans heavily on the latter, and somehow makes it work.

The comic is a series of conversation snippets, told mostly in a nine panel grid that confines the artwork, and produces a sense of claustrophobia in the reader. This design choice serves to increase the uneasy feeling the story wants to establish in its readers due to the limits its places on the information we have.

Another affect of the panel construction is we don’t get to see the narrator as he meets and speaks with his victims, making him difficult to connect with, and creating distance. The only time we see him is at the bottom of page one, so we have a sense of who he is, but only. We know he has a beard, and a creepy smile. We also know he wears his hat low to hide his eyes.

Part of the success of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate is how well it flows, even though we only see one half of the participants.

This page shows a series of panels in a 9X9 grid of people speaking with the sinister Mr Obdurate. We see a slim man, a bald man, a woman, and a man with a baby.

We don’t know who these people are, but that doesn’t matter. We see and read their reactions, and know they are nervous, jumpy, unsure of themselves. Only Mr Obdurate seems sure of himself in this sinister story, which makes sense as he is in control. His viewpoint is ours. He tells the people what to do, and they listen. The nine panel grid contributes to this, perfectly illustrating the absolute sense of control he has.

Slow Build Up to a Sinister and Satisfying End

The third page continues the panel construction, and amps up the tension. Mr Obdurate mentions that the people knew this was coming, and that they will try to stop it. Some of them, like the woman, beg. The bald man says he’s sorry and can’t do this. As readers, we still don’t know what is happening, and for that reason we are scared, too. The questions raised have no easy answers. However, rather than harming the work, these unanswered questions only build the mystery of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate.

We witness the desperation of these players as they realize their time is coming to an end. We don’t know how they will die, and it is unclear if they know that either. However, they are going to die.

Who is Mr Odburate? Is he death incarnate? A serial killer? A hired man sent to collect people? The question is left unanswered, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has his role to play, as do we all.

I really enjoyed how this sinister story of Mr Obdurate doesn’t leave the reader with easy answers. Another thing that stood out to me was the creators’ ability to tell this creepy and atmospheric story without putting a lot of big action on the page. Despite the lack of big motion, there is still a definite sense of forward momentum along with the feeling of moving inexorably toward the ending.

If you enjoyed this comic, find the creators through their twitter links above and give them a follow and a shout out. And if you liked this post, leave a comment and let me know. Thank you for reading.

If you want to read more of my writing about comics, click here.

Edit

Juan Manuel Ponce contacted me on Twitter, and while he loved what I wrote about his and the team’s comic, he told me I was wrong. The character at the end of the first page in the diner is not Mr. Obdurate. He did think it would have been a cool twist, though. So, I got that one wrong, but what I said about how the nine panel grids gives the narrator absolute control still stands.