It’s another Saturday, and that must mean it’s already time for Weekend Reading 54! We don’t think you’ll be too surprised to find that we’re going to be spending out weekend in what has become the customary fashion: locked inside Stately Beat Manor, and comfortably situated between a stack of books and a stack of comics!
As always, we hope that you’ll share your reading plans for this weekend with The Beat, either below in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat. An as always, we hope that you’re staying safe (and of course, that you have plenty to read)!
AVERY KAPLAN: This weekend I’ll be reading The Man Without Talent by Yoshiharu Tsuge, which was originally published in Japan in the 1970s but which was only more recently translated to English by Ryan Holmberg and released in the United States by New York Review Comics in January 2020. Plus, after catching up with the animated series on HBO Max, I’m in a very Harley/Ivy mood, so I’ll be checking out Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy by Jody Houser, Adriana Melo, Mark Morales, Wade Von Grawbadger, Hi-Fi, and Gabriela Downie.
TAIMUR DAR: Taking a week from Avery last week and after watching the Invincible animated series on Amazon, I’ve decided to check out the first volume of Invincible by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Bill Crabtree. If it hooks me like the animated show has, then it’s more than likely I’ll be checking out the entire series and spin-off books. I’m also interested in comparing the differences between the book and show in the adaptation process.
THERESE LACSON: It’s been a wild week. After finishing up the audiobook of Leigh Bardugo‘s Rule of Wolves this weekend (the supposed final book in her Grishaverse series), I’m diving back intoShadow and Bone to mark it down for the upcoming season of the show. But, the first book of that universe can be hard to jump into entirely, so I’m also trying to catch up on some Marvel reads. Afterthis week’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, I’m going to check out Truth: Red, White & Black by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker, in hopes that we’ll see more of Carl Lumbly’s Isaiah Bradley in the final three episodes of the season.
BILLY HENEHAN: I recently found myself wanting to read the entire Suicide Squad series by John Ostrander, Luke MConnell and Karl Kesel. After opening issue #1 in DC Universe Infinite, an editor’s caption referenced SecretOrigins #14, which told the origin of the Squad. Opening that led me to wanting to read Legends by Ostrander, Kesel, John Byrne and LenWein first, since that’s where the Squad was first introduced in #3. However, did you know that Legends #1 is not the first part of Legends? It’s continued from Detective Comics #568! Also not the first part of Legends! That Detective issue is only part 2. It’s continued from Batman #401. So here I now sit, wanting to read through the Suicide Squad series that inspired Michel Fiffe’s Copra, and finding myself reading the first appearance of Magpie instead.
After dropping the official trailer for Shadow and Bone this week, fans got a more in-depth look at not only the members of the court in Ravka but also their beloved Crows in Ketterdam. We spoke with Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa), and Kit Young (Jesper Fahey) about filming and being a part of this eight-episode series. We talked about their characters one-on-one, filming some of their intense action sequences, and also touched a bit on their relationships with one another.
Fans of the Grishaverse will know Kaz, Inej, and Jesper as members of The Dregs, a vicious gang that operates out of Ketterdam, the capital city of the island nation of Kerch. Kerch is a country that relies solely on capitalism. Everything is about business and money, the Merchant Council rules the city of Ketterdam, and it also is home to a thriving criminal underworld. At the center of our story is the Crow Club, a casino run by the criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. At his side is Inej Ghafa, his spy, and Jesper Fahey, his sharpshooter
The leader of the Crows and also the burgeoning criminal mastermind of Ketterdam is Kaz Brekker, played by Freddy Carter. I spoke with Carter about his role as Kaz, and whether he found any similarities between himself and Kaz. “Well, I mean, Kaz is this violent, ruthless gang leader, which was pretty easy for me to get into because we’re pretty similar in all of those ways,” Carter joked. “But no, I think my way into him was his loyalty. His loyalty, and [how] you have to work very hard to earn his trust.” He added, “But when you’ve got it, it’s yours to keep. I think that was my that was my big key to him.”
Aside from being known as a man who will take a job no matter how dangerous or violent as long as the cash is worth it (earning him the nickname “Dirtyhands”), Kaz is also known for the fact that he carries a cane and has a limp from a childhood injury. Grishaverse creator Leigh Bardugo has spoken at length about how she uses a cane due to her osteonecrosis and how that became an inspiration for the creation of Kaz’s character. “It’s clear from just reading interviews with Leigh and meeting her how important, both the cane and Kaz as a character [are to her],” Carter noted. “She’s spoken about how normally the villain has the [cane] and although Kaz has some questionable morals, he’s not a villain.”
He continued, “It was really important to me to make it something that he was very proud of. Not something that held him back or something that he was worried about. In fact, he loved it about himself, and that all came from a conversation I had with Leigh where she said, ‘You know, it took me a while but I now love this about myself, it’s a part of me. And I wrote a character who loved it about himself, to sort of show people that it was possible.’ And that’s what I took on board and really wanted to embody. It’s something that never stopped him doing anything, and in fact, it made him stronger. There’s this amazing quote in the book which says, ‘There is no part of him which isn’t stronger for having been broken.’ And I think, I held on to that quite strongly when I was thinking about the cane.”
Kaz’s right hand is his trusty spy Inej Ghafa. Known by her nickname of The Wraith in Six of Crows, Inej is undoubtedly the most deadly member of The Dregs. An expert acrobat and the eyes and ears of The Dregs, she knows all. Although she runs with a bunch of thieves, Inej is one of the more kind-hearted and honorable characters. She’s religious and has a strong moral compass and often plays foils to her less reputable comrades. For Amita Suman, the books were critical for her understanding of Inej. “I’ve never really read any anything similar to who [Inej] is and what she’s capable of. She’s so unique. So, it was important for me that I didn’t pick someone to use as an inspiration because, you know, the books are so rich in describing who the characters are and what they do and how they hold themselves, and you discover all the reasons of their being.”
She continued, “For me, that book was the Bible. I know that [the Crows] in Shadow and Bone is a prequel. So, I was gifted this wonderful opportunity to develop Inej to the person you see in Six of Crows and show the audience her decision making and why she becomes the character you love in Six of Crows. The books are just brilliant, they’re such a great read, you really go through a journey. And funnily enough, you know when the book ends, we don’t really have any questions to ask about who they are, because the description in the writing is so deep and detailed.”
For Suman, finding this new version of Inej meant a lot to her. “There’s always this pressure and a tiny bit of insecurities in my work, because I care about the part so much, and I care about Inej so much and the show.”
Inej, who has done her fair share of suffering despite her young age, still has a strong sense of her morals. Suman said, “I think you see that she is ultimately good, but she because she’s been forced into so many bad situations. And because she cares so much about her Crows, she will do anything to protect them. At the same time, she’s a woman who still demands honesty and still demands equality and she will walk away when she doesn’t get those things. For me that was really powerful and something I held on to, because it is such a huge, huge part of who she is.”
Of course taking on a role for Inej Ghafa will inevitably come with a strong physical component. Inej, an experienced acrobat, is often found running across the rooftops of Ketterdam and slipping quietly in and out of spaces in her time as a spy. Suman lamented that this was sadly not a trait she shared with her character. “When I got the part I knew exactly what Inej was capable of physically, and I really really was not. You know, I was getting tired carrying the shopping bags home. And I said to myself, if I can’t build her strength and build her stamina and the flexibility I can’t do this role any justice.”
“So I did a lot of training, and it was my first experience of having built muscle for the first time and having stamina. And in terms of the silk, it looks easy, it looks so graceful and beautiful and then you come on, and my teacher said, ‘Oh, just hold yourself,’ and I couldn’t, because I had no core strength, at the time,” she said, teasing a scene in the season where we see Inej using aerial silks. “Learning all of those skills was really empowering and I really appreciate people who are masters at their craft. I really learned how much time and effort and practice and dedication it requires.”
On top of her skills, Inej is also known for the fact that she carries over a dozen knives and names them all over the saints. On this, Suman said, “I didn’t really get any specific training, I was just gifted 14 gorgeous knives and I had the pleasure of playing around with them and making them part of my character. Not just in an aesthetic way but Inej names all of the knives after saints, so she has a personal connection and an emotional connection to it. So, every time I had the opportunity to use it, I really had to ask myself, ‘Is this from a character’s point of view? Is this really worth using such deadly weapons?’ And it was very empowering. My knives really felt like armor and I hadn’t really experienced that before.”
And the third member of the group is Jesper Fahey. A sharpshooter who never misses, but he might have a bit of a gambling problem. He’s never seen without his pearl-handled revolvers. And speaking with Kit Young about playing Jesper, the actor also happened to have his prop revolvers on hand, twirling and flicking them around in his hand with practiced ease. We’ve already got glimpses of Jesper’s skill in the trailer, with him shooting a coin in mid-air, but this, Young said, all came after some practice and a bit of time at “Crow Camp.”
“We arrived to Budapest, and we got very lucky that we had almost a month of pre-production before we all kind of started shooting, so we were put straight into stunts, what I kind of call ‘Crow Camp.’ We were set to work, really put through our paces, and I was first given these pistols — these kind of prop pistols that I tried to spin. I dropped one, [and it] smashed everywhere. I was told it was the only pair,” he recounted.
“And then, I was gifted another pair to go home and practice with, one of which is here,” he said, pulling out the prop and spinning it around. “Because I take them everywhere. Now they’re just extensions of my arm, and I’m constantly kind of, you know, playing around with them. They’re just part of who I am now, mainly because I was probably very annoying on set, I was constantly twizzling around guns with ammunition in them.”
One aspect of Jesper that sticks with him throughout the books is that he is constantly on the move. This man is the definition of restless leg syndrome. He loves to be at the card tables, even though he seems perpetually on the wrong side of lady luck. Young pulled from the character of the books, and also the writing style of Bardugo’s books to gather together Jesper’s character for the show.
“I think it comes back to this thing that essentially [he] is like an adrenaline junkie and is constantly looking for this thrill. There’s a brilliant moment in Six of Crows, where they’re trying to escape Ketterdam. It’s Jesper’s chapter, when they’re getting attacked at the dock, and it’s great. Because the book is so filmic and [Leigh Bardugo] does this thing where each person’s perspective is almost a different genre of film. So Kaz’s feels very film noir-esque, some of the others have different strokes, but I think Jesper’s often feel like an action movie. It’s something like guns blazing, and here we go. There’s a brilliant moment where he comes alive when the fight kicks off, and I think that was really useful for this season to know that [when] shit hits the fan. Jesper is almost the best equipped person to suddenly respond. He’s never going to back away. He’s gonna lean in, maybe too far.”
Crows Crossing the Fold
And when the action kicks off, it’s a big spectacle! For anyone who wants to go to Ravka, they must also secure passage across the treacherous Shadow Fold. A mysterious and deadly gash at the center of the map, the Fold is pure darkness and full of dangerous creatures known as Volcra who are basically like giant deadly winged demons. Young teased a bit of what the Crows must face in their crossing of the Fold.
“That was crazy. That was crazy for all of us. I mean there were four of us in a black box, that was purposefully built for the interior of the train, and they had to take out each wall to get the cameras in different angles. The same with the roof as well. So it was three days in a black box with fire. That was moving. Oh yes, and there’s a goat,” he said, garnering a laugh from everyone. Obviously fans can feel free to speculate what decisions lead to this crazy situation.
“There was a lot going on, and by the end of day one we were pretty delirious and by the end of day three, we could barely take anything seriously. We were losing our minds, but it was great fun. The mad thing was obviously the goat, having it in your arms, and it starts kicking around because it doesn’t want to be near guns and fire, and me probably.” Yes, you heard right. There was a goat involved. Actually, Young clarifies, there were two goats named Running and Jumping in Hungarian. “They should have been called Screaming and Pooping, because one was the screamer and one was definitely the pooper.”
“We had to stop and clean the set,” he continued. “I’d have like little snacks in my sleeve trying kind of like pass it things. It was tricky. And then the really annoying thing about the goat is when it was working with Archie [Reynaux] it was seamless. But, yeah, it was amazing fun. It was my first ever action sequence, so it was daunting, as well as exciting.”
But, it’s not all goats and snacks, Suman also talked about Inej’s desire to cross the fold, seeing it as an opportunity for freedom. “In the show, she is indentured to Tante Heleen and is forced to work in the brothels. For her, crossing The Fold is the opportunity for freedom, and her freedom, to her, is life and death. I think it’s a real testament to who she is because once she crosses it, and she has the prize in her hands, you see her make a very powerful and important decision, and a very selfless decision of putting her faith first and doing the right thing first, regardless of the consequences for herself. What’s really gorgeous is that all of us have our own different reasons [for crossing]. And I think that really gives so much more into the storytelling and the depths of the characters and what makes it even more enjoyable to watch.”
I couldn’t let the opportunity to ask about Inej and Kaz’s relationship pass. Kaz and Inej, or rather Kanej, as the shippers call them, is a cornerstone of the Crows duology. On top of the heists and schemes and crazy plot twists, there’s also romance. I already talked about Helnik in my previous interview with Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman, and sadly we haven’t been able to spot a Wylan Van Eck in the mix of the Crows in this timeline. But when it comes to slow burn romances, nobody does it quite like Kaz and Inej.
Both Carter and Suman spoke about the relationship and what audiences might get to see in the series and in these earlier versions of the characters. “Yeah, I think, for both of them, because they both have such a traumatic start in life, and for pretty obvious reasons they both have trust issues and issues with connecting and sort of vulnerability. I’d say Kaz probably a little more so than Inej, [he has his] guard up 100% of the time,” Carter explained.
“So he finds it very confusing, it’s a very sort of tricky thing for him to define, he’s not someone who’s particularly good at talking about that stuff, or even accepting that there’s feelings to be talked about. It’s so far pushed down, so that when it slips out, and I think it does sort of in the show, it comes across similarly to the book, it comes in moments of pressure. When something slips and he sort of gives away more than maybe he even realized he was thinking. We both [are], as it’s been mentioned, big fans of the books and wanted to get that dynamic right. We put a lot of work into making sure we stay true to the books, while also serving the scripts.”
Suman agreed, addding, “To me, their relationship is something I’ve never experienced or seen on screen because they both have their traumas.” In talking about their dynamic, she said, “Inej [is] one of those people that forces the good out of people. Kaz always has questionable morals and tactics and she is the person that is always knocking at him, even when he doesn’t want to hear it. She tells him that there are so many admirable qualities about you. Not literally, [but] in their language of not being able to use their words but using their actions to kind of speak for themselves.”
Missing Links from Six of Crows?
For fans of the Six of Crows duology, there is obviously a missing link in the group, in the form of Wylan. A demolitions man with his own baggage from the past, Eric Heisserer did mention that there was a possibility that we could have seen Wylan. “Often times in the writer’s room, we would have scenes that we would call Act Zero, which are essentially like little scenes before, moments before, or things that took place before the episodes themselves. One of our favorite scenes was really before Kaz left Ketterdam, knowing that they were crossing the Fold, knowing that they were possibly crossing paths with the Darkling himself, he visited Wylan and he said, ‘Can you make me some sort of device or bomb, something that might give me a second of freedom if I ever encountered the Darkling?’ So that was a fun little piece of fiction that hopefully will go into the show’s DNA in the future if we ever get a chance to do that.”
Well, did we get you guys excited for the show? Fans have been clamoring for more content, getting more and more excited for the series release. Don’t forget to follow The Beat for more coverage of the show as we approach its release date.
After dropping the official trailer for Shadow and Bone this week, fans got a more in-depth look at not only the members of the court in Ravka but also their beloved Crows in Ketterdam. We spoke with Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa), and Kit Young (Jesper Fahey) about filming and being a […]
Yesterday was Opening Day for the 2021 baseball season….unless you are a Mets or Nationals fan, as the latter had a scary COVID outbreak.
I am a pretty diehard Mets fan, and so is cartoonist Ellen Lindner, and she’s combined baseball and comics in a new instagram comic that just launched about the history of women in baseball.
Happy Opening Day to any baseball fans! *taps mic* This year I’ve chosen to mark opening day by posting the beginning of a series of comics about gender as an exclusionary force in American baseball. Cheery, huh? By this, I mean I want to examine the system where baseball is kept for one gender only, as much as possible, except when there is an advantage to allowing other people in (usually to make money.) After all, this world where softball is for girls and baseball is for boys didn’t come about by accident. Thanks for reading, and please put any questions in the comments!
There are some sample pages form both issues below, but for a mere $8 you can buy both – each issue also includes interviews, and more supplemental material about current day women in baseball. And be sure to follow along with her new comic on Instagram.
Just a personal note: probably part of the reason I ever got into baseball was that the mets of the 70s seemed to be way more female friendly: they had a bold woman owner; organist Jane Jarvis supplied the riffs that cheered on the often painful doings at Shea Stadium; Mrs. Met was perhaps the only female mascot in mens’ professional sports; and even the Mets theme song, “Meet the Mets” had a female co-writer, Ruth Roberts.
These were little things, but unusual, and gave me an inclusionary entrance into the sport.
Today baseball has its first female General Manager (Kim Ng at the Marlins) and various female coaches are making history on and off the field. And of course, women play baseball and softball at all levels around the world. Perhaps once the weather is nicer, I’ll even pick up the old whifflebat and hit a few fungoes.
The Cranklet Chronicles is a great example of a cartoonist’s personal interest producing comics that give us a history that is often overlooked. Play ball!
This one is going to have a big grain of salt and grit in the proceedings. Unlike the columns where I said the comic industry was doomed to evolve or die. (I wonder how that’s all going.)
The world is a constant barrage of wildness. Somewhat locally, we’re entering a bad third wave of Coronavirus brought about by some sheer incompetence by our provincial government. Modelling (and this particular government’s form of ego) has us eclipsing our very worst peaks of COVID-19 contraction as vaccinations trickle out slowly. Individuals and municipalities have been forced to take point while our leadership follows. It has me a little stressed and a little sad.
I am tired, and a lot is happening. Despite the pandemic, the shop has had its best year ever, both in net and gross sales. We started closing on Mondays almost a year ago, and so all of this has happened while we’re at the store a little less often. On paper, this is phenomenal. In practice, we are so very, very tired.
We’re busy enough now we truly need to hire some help. We can afford to monetarily, but we can’t quite manage it morally. While we’ve been keeping our door locked to ensure anti-maskers can’t even get inside, our business opens up to exposure to COVID-19 on a daily basis. We haven’t had any brushes with it, but customers have come into close contact. Every time, their own test results have come back negative, but we have this feeling in our guts like we’re being circled by sharks.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a good problem to have. We’re finding exhaustion in the store’s success, instead of constant worry with the store’s failure. I am not dangerously skinny like I was in the early days when the month-to-month stress of hitting certain numbers caused any food taken in to be lost in short order. Now, I’m dealing with some comfort weight and the body issues that come with it.
As I write this, it is midnight. We’ve had our day, I’ve done our deliveries, and we did our Best of the Week streaming show. We ended the thing on a stress point as the day crashed upon us. I then went and figured out our final order cut-off numbers for DC books shipping in mid-April, helped feed some cats, and had a talk to resolve some stress. (Always put your stress into words when you can and help address the stresses of those around you when you can – you’ll carry far too much if you don’t.) And now I’m here. I want to sleep, but the business never sleeps, and it has been far too long since I’ve put one of these out.
And something happened today, and I’m just stressed enough to not let it lie.
Today, we’re going to talk about Bad Idea. You might have heard of them. They have an interesting approach to the business of comics. We’re going to dig into the good and the bad. It will not be my best work, though I truly don’t think any of us are killing it these days. (But hey, if you feel like you’re firing on all cylinders, good for you! Also, come closer so I can break you open and drink up your powers, please.)
By Brandon Schatz, with edits and contributions by Danica LeBlanc
Originally planned to launch in May of 2020, Bad Idea arrived on the scene in January of that same year, promoting a scheme where they’d be building a company that would deliver product in a scant 20 locations, worldwide. The initial idea nabbed quite a bit of buzz, and over an extended period of time (partly due to the pandemic) that scant 20 shops grew to a launching class of 200 locations (featuring 153 different shops and chains total).
In the early days of this, Danica and I pushed to see if we could become a part of this small group. We had been listening to interviews with Bad Idea co-CEO Dinesh Shamdasani about the venture and had a vetting call with Atom Freeman. In those conversations, we discovered a lot about the company that ingratiated ourselves to the “young upstarts”. We also discovered the existence of Bad Idea’s infamous “six rules for retailers” for carrying their product, which we’re going to go ahead and print below.
All stores participating in the Destination Program agree to the following rules forBad Idea product:
Rule #1: Limit one per customer.
Rule #2: Must be sold for no more than cover price for 30 day from street date.
Rule #3: Bad Idea comics can be offered for pre-order but cannot be shipped to anyone before street date.
Rule #4: Must be displayed in the highest trafficked section of your store.
Rule #5: Must prominently display promotional material for mandated time period.
Rule #6: Your order on the first issue of an arc is your minimum order on each subsequent issue of that arc.
Failure to comply with these rules will result in your shop’s removal from the program.
These rules are very important to keep in mind as we run through how the company has been marketing itself.
A lot of this goes back to the splash they made by announcing that they’d originally be available at a scant 20 locations. In early interviews, Shamdasani spoke about his experience running Valiant and how the majority of that company’s sales came from a very small pool of retailers. He talked about how the limitation of retail outlets might benefit a company that ran on the manpower of ones instead of tens or hundreds, and how marketing scarcity rather than limitation would work to their advantage.
As a small business owner, I found kinship in a person who recognized the marketing of weakness as a strength. It reminded me of a story that comics creator Sam Humphries once told when he was marketing the original printing of Our Love Is Real (which topped out at 300 copies). He said he had been talking with James Sime of Isotope Comics who told him about the difference between the phrases “I only have 300 copies” and “THERE ARE ONLY 300 COPIES”.
The Bad Idea model was and is that phrasing, writ large. They have a limited amount of locations so that their smaller staff can better manage orders that are placed directly with them. They don’t do digital because that requires staffing to handle those contracts, uploads and timing. They don’t do collected editions, because that would require a book store distribution contract that would ALSO require staff to co-ordinate and product to lock in and schedule months in advance. Instead of having these things in place, Bad Idea was just going to build some quality product. If someday they pushed their orders to an open system of retailers, along with digital and collected editions, so be it. But such things would not be in the plans to start.
In public, the company revels in the idea of scarcity, promoting the “there are only 200 locations” of it all rather than the “we can only supply 200 locations”. This isn’t a dumb move on their end. It plays into the molten hot speculator market at play and gives their content a certain gleam that is both extremely attractive and endlessly frustrating. A trip into their Facebook group reveals a den of die-hards and malcontents, some salivating at the lack of worldwide access while others lament the availability of product near them. This awareness creates a buzz within the comics community that pushes orders up to the point where the company vastly under-estimated the demand of their first release. But we’ll get to that a bit later.
While originally intending to launch ENIAC #1 in May of last year, the pandemic pushed things backwards. In the stead of product, Bad Idea did a few interesting things. The first thing involved sending a total of $250,000 directly to “every one of the 100 retailers in the first wave of our Bad Idea Destination Store program, as well as those already committed to our yet-to-be-announced second wave.” This wasn’t anything they had to do, but they did it anyway, and it was greatly appreciated.
They also stealth released their first title to shops by sending a copy of a comic called The Hero Trade to stores, including material that featured an unnamed creator asking for shops to place orders for their independent work. A short time after a stated deadline for orders had passed, Bad Idea revealed the release to be the work of Matt Kindt and David Lapham with a press blast that went everywhere, stating that a Bad Idea comic was already at your participating retailer and ready for you to ask for. The only problem? There was no warning to retailers of any of this. So over the course of a few days, we spent quite a few hours fielding inquiries and wondering what to do with a comic that we soon discovered had a prohibitively small print run (somewhere south of “THERE ARE ONLY 300 COPIES”), and that we weren’t entirely sure we’d see more than one copy of.
It was at this point that we lost a “customer” who had (1) never spent a single dollar with us and (2) demanded to know what we were going to do with the copy of The Hero Trade we had in hand. We informed the person that we weren’t quite sure WHAT we were going to do until we knew whether or not we’d see more copies from Bad Idea or not, but if we were only to have the one, we’d end up selling it for charity, at around what the book was going for in the market – as we were told the “Must be sold for no more than cover price for 30 days from street date” didn’t apply because the book wasn’t an “official” Bad Idea release.
We received a curt message informing us to drop his orders, and in short order, saw him posting in the Bad Idea Facebook group about how he “dropped his store for another” due to shady practices. This was when our first bit of counter-marketing took place, when we decided to take the comic we had, and cut it in half (along the spine) so we could laminate the thing and have as many people as possible read it without getting sick. We took something built with an inherent limitation of experience and made sure we had something to market Bad Idea’s upcoming line, instead of cashing in with one somewhat sizeable payday.
(In the interest of full disclosure, we DID end up receiving one extra copy, which we sold to a voracious Matt Kindt reader for FAR FAR FAR less than “market value” to thank him for his support.)
After that, things died down for a time. We attempted to further our counter-marketing by asking Bad Idea to help facilitate a situation where the creators would sign the pages of The Hero Trade we laminated so we could auction them off for charity. Bad Idea agreed, but logistics have conspired against this from taking place thus far. (Here’s hoping!)
In January of 2021, we were finally able to place our orders for ENIAC #1 (the first Bad Idea release) properly. We sent out an order that we thought would keep us in stock for quite some time, playing a bit of the long game. Being very mindful of Bad Idea’s rules (particularly the one that stated “Your order on the first issue of an arc is your minimum order on each subsequent issue of that arc”) we required anyone signing up for ENIAC to commit to the full four issues of the story upfront, either with a pre-payment, or an agreed-upon commitment from long-standing file customers. This would ensure we wouldn’t be holding the bag from unsold copies of issues 2-4 of the series when the speculators disappeared. It was a pretty solid plan on our part… only Bad Idea apparently underestimated what demand for their first release would be and announced that they’d be allocating stores at a rate of 51% to their orders.
This didn’t sit well with us at all, and public communication was cagey as to why something like this happened. At the same time, BOOM! Studios had a similar issue with the first issue of BRZRKR, so they delayed the release of that particular title. Bad Idea chose another tactic and gave retailers the option of filling out the rest of their initial orders with copies of what they were calling the “Not First Printing” version of the book.
In conversation online, Shamdasani spoke about the situation in a frank manner. The covers for the first and “not first” printings were produced at the same time as a cost-saving measure. They were also printed long before the interiors as the spot varnish effect took quite some time to “cure” properly. Retailers put in their orders AFTER this point in time, and while the interiors could be produced to satisfy the full orders, producing more covers would have taken at least three extra weeks. While BOOM! opted for a delay (two weeks for the regular-style covers of BRZRKR and 5 weeks for the foil versions), Bad Idea barreled forward by affixing their already-printed run of “Not First Printing” covers to the initial print run instead.
The results were a bit of chaos, especially for a store like ours who pre-sold this book by the arc, with the assumption that first prints were what we’d put in the hands of those customers. We will say, Bad Idea was receptive to our problems and worked with us to solve some minor problems this caused for us, and we are grateful for that. However, the situation also caused a wild spike in inquiries from folks all over North America looking for copies – many of whom had a whole lot of “friends” who were interested in signing up, but who didn’t seem to like the fact that we required their “friends” to sign up with their own payment information if they wanted any copies of Bad Idea materials (see Rule #1).
To this day, we have people signing up for the full arc of ENIAC, only to ask to delete their order when we double-check that they read the description of the product, and howwe only have access to “Not First Printings” to fill for issue #1. This is a lot of extra work that could have been avoided. However, Bad Idea continues to play their weaknesses as strengths and used the scarcity they provided as a marketing tool. They’re working with what they have, and while I can’t blame them, I’m truly getting tired of how glib they act while they heap spoonsful of work onto the retailers they’ve chosen to work with.
This brings us to their most recent announcement, and the new set of headaches that have arrived with it.
As a bit of a mea culpa for misfiring on the print run of ENIAC #1, Bad Idea announced to retailers that they would be providing copies of a title called HANK HOWARD, PIZZA DETECTIVE in CALIGULA’S SAFE to retailers FOR FREE, in the same quantity that they originally ordered for ENIAC #1 (or in the case of “second wave” retailers, TANKERS #1). Retailers are to sell the book for $1 American, BUT… (and there is always a BUT with this company) they are ONLY able to sell the title on Wednesday, May 12th – not before, and not afterwards. Once the clock strikes midnight, the remaining copies are to be shipped back to Bad Idea. With one store having already been removed from the Bad Idea retailer pool indefinitely for breaking Rule #2, one has to take the company at their word when they say there are consequences for breaking with their requests.
Now. While we are quite happy to see Bad Idea attempting a “make good”, this version of it is deeply flawed, and plays up their “ONLY 300 COPIES AVAILABLE” vibes to a detrimental end. As a retailer, it gives me a window of one particular day to complete all of my transactions involved with HANK HOWARD, PIZZA DETECTIVE in CALIGULA’S SAFE. What’s more, they also require the books to be picked up, and mailed out that day, no exceptions.
From their communication:
Every store is able to sell CALIGULA’S SAFE by all the same means they sell every other BAD IDEA comic — from in-store, off-the-shelf sales to mail-order (must be mailed that day) to phone orders or pre-orders that are picked up that day — and must still adhere to the BAD IDEA rules. At the stroke of midnight on May 12th, however, any unsold copies are forbidden from sale and must be returned to BAD IDEA HQ using the materials we provide.
What this creates is a situation where a retailer must put in hours and hours of extra work to potentially meet the demand of a clientele that is outwardly being marketed towards using a SCARCITY program – and they require us to do so at a $1 a pop. While this is a free product and ends up being a net gain we might not have, the effort required to do the footwork on ordering – including fielding calls from folks who could truly care less about reading the comic itself and folks who will surely be asking for the book long after May 12th – means every single store that participates in this madness will end up on the losing end of this transaction.
Make no mistake: this form of marketing is working, and a lot of people are interested in what Bad Idea is putting out. We’ve opened a lot of new files, many of whom discovered us, fell in love with our feel, and have opened larger files with us. Many other customers are breaking out of their big two superhero shells to dig into these books. We are seeing a lot of sustainable interest, but I will say that has a lot more to do with the legwork that we’re putting into Bad Idea on our end, rather than what they’re doing on theirs. Sure, they’re providing the product and the sizzle, but a sizzle amounts to a whole lot of nothing if you don’t know how to cook, you know?
Danica and I don’t think highly of ourselves (while also thinking VERY highly of each other), but we will both confidently say that we know how to pair comics with people. That is our biggest strength and it has served us well. Doing this, and pairing it with a system by which our customers must commit to the full arcs that Bad Idea puts out, has already netted some long-term positive effects in early days, at little to no risk to ourselves – but we had to put the safety nets up ourselves.
All of the rules that Bad Idea has in place puts weight on the retailers that work with them. Selling only one copy of anything per customer requires work. Making sure their product is located in the highest-trafficked section of our store and ensuring promo material is part of the store for mandated periods of time requires work. Making sure your shop doesn’t lose a huge chunk of money after speculators abandon any series they offer after issue #1 while you’re on the hook for matching orders of 2, 3, and 4 also requires work. A store also has to do this without potentially reaping the benefits of the after-market (something that we truly don’t partake in, but we don’t begrudge those that do).
Add on top of that the limitations that a $1 comic – free or not – would add in terms of increased work load, and you have a situation where a kind gesture turns into something quite worthless for anyone participating in the Bad Idea program.
That said… we’re a store that prides ourselves on rising up to a challenge. If a company like Bad Idea wants to build up some hoops so we can put (admittedly) great comics into people’s hands, they are entitled to do so. If they want people to follow a strict set of rules, they are entitled to do so. Retailers can choose to follow these rules blindly to keep getting product and call it a day. They can push through a heap of ridiculousness to sell copies of CALIGULA’S SAFE at an operational loss, and call it a day just so they can continue to sell ENIAC and TANKERS and the like.
Or, they can make their own rules. Which is what we’re going to do.
We’re putting together a little something we’re calling THE WORTHLESS COMIC GAMBIT.
In this situation, we have a product that we’re receiving for free, that has a cover price of $1 American. We are required to sell that comic for no more than $1 American, as we are not allowed to sell the comic outside of one single day, let alone 30 days past the release day.
The time and effort it takes essentially makes the comic worthless to us. So we’re deciding to make it worth less to our customers, by providing it to them for free.
Now I know you’re thinking, how does giving something away for free solve any of the costs of time we’ll be incurring? Well, it doesn’t. Not in and of itself. However, because we’re getting a limited amount of product, we will be taking hold requests – and putting a priority on those who place the book on hold and donate a minimum of $5 to a fund that will go to a charity of our choosing. Anyone local can ask for the book, but we’ll only be guaranteeing copies to those who make a donation – and on May 12th, we’ll “ring through” their transaction of $0 for the book to prove to Bad Idea that these copies we were given were accounted for by individuals while raising money for a good cause. The following day, we’ll make the donation.
Just like cutting The Hero Trade in half, it takes what amounts to a lot of weight placed needlessly on retailer’s shoulders, and turns it into a positive and helpful force. Looking through the rules, there isn’t anything that prevents us from doing so, but if Bad Idea feels like preventing us from using this situation as a fundraiser for a good cause, I guess they’re entitled to do so. I’m not sure what they’d get out of that, but the option is there.
In all ways, I want to be additive to this industry. I understand that marketing is a key part of making sure ventures like Bad Idea are viable, but I often feel like the company itself truly doesn’t consider the cost of their actions. And I’m not just talking about money. Every business owner has four main resources to spend: money, time, energy, and space. There are finite levels of all of those resources in any business. Good companies to work with are mindful of all of those resources. While quietly Bad Idea seems to be considerate of what money, time, energy and space they have, informing their ideas on who they’re selling to and in what formats, publicly they don’t seem to appreciate many of those resources that retailers are spending on them. Money aside, these ideas of theirs pull considerably on time and energy to a detrimental level. They’re a talented group of folks working with talented crews of creators, so they can get away with a lot of what they’re doing… but when you start overspending the resources of your customers, all of the money in the world can’t save you. At least not in the long term.
I want Bad Idea to be successful. From their current announcements, to their teases, to their production value, they have solid products on their hands. They just need to stop being so glib about what we are spending to help them land, and start doing more to actually become an additive part of this community. The handout during the shutdown was nice and unexpected, but right now it almost feels like that meme where the person is drowning, and another person comes along and high-fives them before walking away, only the high-five is a fist full of cash. Money doesn’t help when you’re drowning someone with other problems.
To all Bad Idea retailers out there reading this: I encourage each and every one of you to participate in THEWORTHLESS COMIC GAMBIT, and turn this situation into a positive for your community, and your shop. I also encourage you to voice any and all concerns you might have in the comments below. I won’t be reading them myself (like I said before, time is a precious resource, and I’ve spent enough of it on Bad Idea for the time being), but maybe they will. Or hey, contact them directly! We all have their e-mail, and they really need to be aware of the resources they’re using far too much of before it is too late.
Thank you for reading. We’ll talk with you all again soon.
Robin #1 is due out April 27 from the creative team of writer Joshua Williams and artist Gleb Melnikov, and in today’s preview of the issue, we see Damian Wayne striking out on his own and landing…on LAZARUS ISLAND.
It’s a pretty cool setup, and it leads to Damian not only teaming up with Rose Wilson and Connor Hawke, but fighting dudes with names like THE KING SNAKE, in cages. In addition, the book will introduce some new characters, as the Bat-titles are wont to do (pretty much constantly) these days (subsequently stoking sales with a steady stream of first appearances).
And now DC Comics has shared completed pages from the first issue, as well as the designs for the new characters, who are named Flatline and ReSpawn.
Check it out below…enjoy!
Robin #1 Preview
Now that Damian Wayne has severed his ties to both Batman and the Teen Titans, he’ll be emerging from under their shadows to forge his own path, courtesy of writer Joshua Williamson (The Flash, Future State: Justice League, Infinite Frontier) and artist Gleb Melnikov (Wonder Woman, Batman/Superman Annual) in an all-new ongoing series! Debuting on Tuesday, April 27, Robin will feature new mysteries for Damian to explore, a new supporting cast including Rose Wilson and Connor Hawke, brand new characters Flatline and ReSpawn, and fights—lots of fights!
The Hollywood Reporter published an article Wednesday on how major studios are learning to reckon with toxic fandoms. In some ways, this officially puts certain aspects of fandom “on notice” as “Stephen Colbert” would say. When you’ve made it on The Hollywood Reporter’s radar, you know you’ve made it big. This is said with tongue partially in cheek. If you consume media in the age of the Internet, or even before that, you’ve recognized toxicity in fandom.
Screenwriter John Rogers coined the phrase “fandamentalists” in 2004, as noted in The Hollywood Reporter’s article. The article mostly contends with the DCEU/Snyder and Star Wars fandoms, but toxicity is worth pointing out in other fandoms, too. All fandoms, really. The Star Wars controversies have largely been over racism and sexism, with stars like John Boyegaand Trần Loanbeing relentlessly harassed by certain aspects of the Star Wars fandom to this day. Boyega has specifically called on studios to fight the good fight against toxic fandoms, which while further pushing the boundary between studios and fandoms open, would come as a welcome relief to stars of diverse races, genders, and sexualities.
It’s not just the big fandoms, though–smaller fandoms have often faced similar issues, but their toxic traits go unnoticed in the grand scheme of say, Captain Marvel getting its Rotten Tomatoes rating lowered by so-called “trolls”. Still, Sherlock fans were notoriously brutal towards Elementaryback in the day, as well as Elementary’s star Lucy Liu. Certain comments sections on certain websites to this day are ground for nastiness hurled at writers, celebrities, and other fans alike. Game of Thrones’s finale was terrible, yes; but did we really need a Change.org petition demanding it be remade with competent writers at the helm? People are still signing it, by the by. Voltron: Legendary Defendersand so many other animated series to this day have their creators screamed at to make this ship canon and to kill off that character and to only do the story certain parts of toxic fandoms want to see.
As the relationship between fans and creators–which includes stars–grows ever permeable, everyone’s a critic, but oftentimes, that criticism slips into hostility and that hostility goes into offensive territory. Matt St. Clair in his column “How Misery Predicted Toxic Fandom” on RogerEbert.com put it best: “Instead of using sledgehammers or matches like Annie, 21st century fans use petitions, DMs, and 280 tweet characters as their own form of hobbling, hoping to tie artists to their favorite artworks and bend them to their will.” While fandom has almost always existed, the Internet in particular has seemed to make this sort of tyrannical behavior widespread. When everyone, for the most part, lives in anonymity, what does that do to the state of discourse?
As to whether or not studios and executives should step in: of course, they should say something. Tear down the wall between creators and fans if you must–it’s shot full of holes already.
Puppetry in children’s entertainment is often seen as a throwback to a bygone era. That’s not to say that puppetry as an art form has completely disappeared but it’s nowhere near as prevalent in kid shows as it was when I was growing up in the ‘90s. I fondly remember enjoying the colorful felt characters on Eureeka’s Castle and Weinerville on Nickelodeon, the channel that has come to be known as “The First Kids Network.” Appealing to modern youth sensibilities is the challenge faced then by Nickelodeon’s new puppet comedy show The Barbarian and the Troll.
Set in the fantasy world of Gothmoria, the series follows Brendar and Evan, the eponymous barbarian warrior princess and troll respectively, as they encounter magical and wacky characters on their epic quest to vanquish the evil demon that has imprisoned Brendar’s brother. The show is the creation of Mike Mitchell and Drew Massey both of whom boast impressive credentials. For the last three decades Massey, who also does double duty voicing and performing Evan the troll, has showcased his talents as a puppeteer on acclaimed productions, perhaps most famously The Muppets. Mitchell meanwhile is a CalArts alumnus with an eclectic resume working in the fields of both animation and live-action in various capacities but typically as a director. Despite divergent career paths, Mitchell and Massey have remained friends and colleagues for years and this show is the passion project combining the skills of two creative minds at the top of their game.
There’s a tendency in children’s media to talk down to kids. Thankfully that’s not the case with this show. In fact, there are a number of jokes and references that are more than likely to go over the heads of the younger viewers. Take for instance Evan’s line, “I’ve got 99 problems but a bridge ain’t one.” I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of Nickelodeon viewers weren’t even alive when that Ice-T song came out, much less pick up on the allusion. The show’s humor is very reminiscent at times of Dreamworks Animation films, not surprising given Mitchell’s past work in various Dreamworks productions most notably the Shrek films. It’s a delicate balance to entertain both children and adults while not completely alienating either, one that Barbarian and the Troll deftly navigates.
Apparently the creators retitled the show from the originally announcedBrendar the Barbarian when they realized early on the popularity of plucky troll, Evan. At first glance, Evan appears to fill the archetypical “bumbling sidekick” role to the heroic Brendar. A tried and true formula that could easily go wrong, but it isn’t played just for laughs. Massey brings depth and nuance to the character I certainly wasn’t anticipating from a puppet comedy. Evan’s frustration with his predestined station in life as a bridge troll and his desire to become a musician that alienates him from his troll king father has calls to mind Hermey the Elf from that timeless Rudolph Christmas special. It’s a universal theme that will undoubtedly strike a chord with Millennials at this particular point in time when everyone feels stuck and has to put their dreams on hold. Between Baby Yoda Grogu last year and now Evan, I never guessed I would be affected so deeply by two different puppets. I would not at all be surprised to see Evan plush dolls flying off the shelves come this holiday season.
While Evan is the textbook definition of “adorkable,” Brendar (voiced by Spencer Grammer) is the complete opposite. In Parks & Rec terms she’s the Ron Swanson to Evan’s Leslie Knope, an apt comparison since Brendar does share similar qualities with Swanson such as hilarious deadpan delivery and a no-nonsense personality. Not wearing her emotions on her sleeves in contrast to Evan certainly gives Brendar a Mandalorian-esque aura that may make it a bit difficult for the audience to connect with the character at least initially. However, a running gag of her “absurdly complex backstory” yet to be revealed hints at deeper layers that will be uncovered slowly as the show progresses, not dissimilar to the Mandalorian.
The early episodes also scratch the surface of the budding friendship between Brendar and Evan that is very much akin to an older sister/younger brother relationship. I can’t help but sense an underlying found family theme at the heart of the show very much in the same vein as the recent DuckTales reboot.
Going into The Barbarian and the Troll, I expected simple stand-alone episodic stories that were loosely interconnected. So I was a bit taken aback to discover the series is serialized, a format which has only grown more prominent in children’s media thanks in no small part to the advent of streaming. The implementation of more sophisticated storytelling further illustrates how Massey and Mitchell don’t feel the need to dumb down the show and know young viewers have enough savvy to keep up with the narrative.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the music of the show, specifically Evan’s uplifting and peppy songs. I can only hope Nickelodeon plans to release the songs as part of a digital album in the near future because if not then it’s a huge missed opportunity.
After watching the first episode, I was reminded of a scene from the Jim Henson Company produced sitcom Dinosaurs in which the matriarch Fran Sinclair criticizes her husband Earl for enjoying a sock puppet show. Earl retorts, “Yeah, you’d think that because they’re puppets – so the show seems to have a children’s aesthetic,” before a brilliant meta turn directly to the camera and further adding, “Yet the dialogue is unquestionably sharp-edged, witty and thematically skewed to adults.” That perfectly encapsulates the genius of TheBarbarian and the Troll. Do yourself a favor and tune into what may possibly be, at least in my opinion, the next big thing for Nickelodeon.
The Barbarian and the Troll premieres tonight, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon
The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of an… obsessive personality. Each week in Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure bits of comics and pop culture that he can’t get out of his head.
When Beat boss Heidi MacDonald initially talked me into doing a humor column, the concept was pretty loose. I was and remain thrilled to have a dedicated space to indulge my favorite obsessions and obscurities, but it crystallized when managing editor Joe Grunenwald came up with the title “Silber Linings.” True to the title, and almost by accident, Silber Linings has largely been about finding redeeming qualities in popular culture that’s notably unpopular, from an obscure Kevin Smith supervillain to forgotten ’80s horror.
I’m telling you this because I want to make something clear about the subject of this week’s discussion, the 1997 film Batman & Robin: it’s not “so bad it’s good.” It’s not a deeply flawed film that I’m affectionate towards anyway. Batman & Robin is a straight-up good movie, full stop. My love for it is utterly earnest, and it might be my favorite Batman movie.
None of this is to say that Batman & Robin isn’t COMPLETELY BANANAS. That’s why I love it! But that’s also why it’s one of the most infamously hated superhero movies of all time. It’s on Wikipedia’s “List of films considered the worst.” George Clooney has long been candid about his embarrassment toward his starring role, and has been rumored to give refunds to fans who saw him don the iconic cape and cowl in theaters. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) apologized for his role in the film as recently as 2020. And Joel Schumacherapologized for directing the misunderstood gem several times throughout his life before his 2020 death.
So let’s start by talking about why Schumacher’s camp spectacular elicited such strong feelings. What it mostly comes down to, whether fans are complaining about the infamous choice to include nipples on Clooney and Chris O’Donnell‘s respective Batman and Robin costumes, or what might be the highest puns-per-minute rate in cinematic history, is that Batman & Robin is deemed too silly.
I’m not going to argue against Batman & Robin‘s silliness, because of course it’s silly. It might be the silliest big-budget ($160 million in 1997 money) blockbuster ever made. It’s just a question of whether you think that silliness works in its favor. And that depends on whether you think silliness belongs in a Batman movie in the first place.
Obviously, I’m in favor of it. I’ve written about this before, but as a general rule, I believe superhero media should be more willing to embrace the wackiness of their comic book roots. This is especially true of Batman. It’s fine if you like those Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder movies, but don’t act like Batman isn’t a children’s character who fights crime with a jet-fueled car/boat/plane and little bat-shaped ninja stars. Some people like to claim that Batman must be dark and serious because that’s how he originally appeared, but go read Batman’s first few years of adventures following his 1939 Detective Comics debut. Sure, Batman may have been a little more severe than peers like Superman, but only on relative terms.
On screen (and if we’re being honest, within comics too), the superhero genre has largely tried so hard to shed the image of kiddie fare and Adam West-esque campiness that “dark” and “mature” takes on superheroes have arguably transformed from the exception to the rule. And that’s a shame, because as much as there are plenty of “serious” takes on superheroes that I like, kids love superheroes. That’s one of the many reasons why I hate Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice: there’s little in there for kids to enjoy (not to mention its repulsive morals, but that’s a subject for another essay).
The MCU relishes its quippy humor, and even Snyder’s “gritty” take on DC heroes embraces goofy ideas like Doomsday and Mother Boxes, but no superhero movie (other than maybe Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) has reveled in the joy of comic book silliness since Batman & Robin. It’s no surprise, really, since that film’s reputation remains horrid nearly 25 years later. Ever since the blockbuster phenomenon of Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman (which is sillier than you likely remember), filmgoers came to expect a grimness from The Dark Knight, and while Schumacher’s mix of slightly spooky aesthetics with glam silliness was well-received when he took over the franchise with 1995’s Batman Forever, his wholesale rejection of any pretense of seriousness in Batman & Robin was met with backlash that’s never fully been reclaimed.
I also can’t shake the feeling that a not-insignificant amount of the hate Batman & Robin received had something to do with homophobia, consciously or otherwise. That’s not really my lane as a straight man, and I don’t know if the average 1997 filmgoer was aware that Schumacher was gay. But there’s an undeniable homoerotic undercurrent to Batman & Robin, not to mention an unapologetic campiness. I have to imagine some men were uncomfortable when confronted by the aesthetic suggestion that, as queer comics icon and legendary Bat-writer Grant Morrison once put it, “gayness is built into Batman.”
Even among people who talk favorably about Batman & Robin, it’s usually on “so bad it’s good” terms similar to infamous flicks like The Room and Cats. But I’d encourage you to rewatch Batman & Robin now that it’s streaming on HBO Max, and open your mind to the idea that Schumacher knew exactly what he was doing. (You can subscribe to HBO Max at this link. Note this is an affiliate link and The Beat may receive a small commission if you subscribe).
I mean, come on. You can’t tell me Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman, in a performance inspired by Mae West) doing a striptease out of a gorilla suit isn’t (A) hilarious and (B) hilarious on purpose.
And don’t you dare try to convince me Mr. Freeze’s constant deluge of ice puns, as delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger, are anything short of delightful. I have to imagine Akiva Goldsman cackling as he wrote each one.
Batman & Robin is one of those movies people call “unintentionally hilarious,” but that’s an inappropriate phrase for it. It’s a hilarious movie, yes, but it’s clearly intentional. It has to be. You can’t film Batman sliding down a dinosaur statue before fighting “the hockey team from hell” without enjoying the utter ridiculousness of it all. That people could watch Batman & Robin and think their laughter is accidental is nonsense to me, but that’s how most people seem to engage with it.
Humor isn’t the only reason I love Batman & Robin. It’s a visual wonder, too. Schumacher’s vision of Gotham doesn’t look like a city that could exist in our world, and that’s how Gotham City should look. It’s the kind of movie that transports you to another world. It doesn’t even look like any particular Batman comic I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of Batman comics. It looks like a city that Batman would live in if he were real, and that’s what matters.
Plus, it’s easy to be cynical about how toyeticBatman & Robin is, but what’s wrong with making a superhero movie kids would like that fills their imagination with cars and motorcycles and gadgets they wish they had? As much as I love Logan, superhero movies should, by default, consider the fact that kids love superheroes and want to watch them, PG-13 or even R-rating be damned. And if you’re making a Batman movie that doesn’t include a bunch of cool things kids would want toys of, you’re doing something wrong. I love those glimmering snow costumes and shiny nonsense vehicles. They wouldn’t make sense in any context but this movie and that’s why they’re perfect.
None of this is to say that Batman & Robin is a perfect movie. There are some jokes that don’t land, and while trying to intellectualize Batman & Robin is a fool’s errand, that doesn’t change the fact that the plot doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone)’s introduction is a tad skeevy. Clooney didn’t want to be there and it shows, even if he gets a few good line deliveries (listen to him sneer the name “Dick” in an argument with his sidekick). The biggest problem is that the somber subplot about Alfred (Michael Gough) falling ill and nearly dying is out of place in a movie that otherwise doesn’t ask the viewer to take anything seriously.
In my recent rewatch, I got the impression that the “Alfred is dying” subplot may have been added just to give the audience opportunities to breathe amidst an otherwise madcap pace. Say what you will about Batman & Robin, but it’s not boring. The breathless barrage of action and jokes and incredible set pieces combine for an experience that’s perfectly designed for imaginative 7-year-olds sitting on the living room floor during a rainy afternoon. It’s utterly entertaining.
Batman is my favorite superhero. That’s the most basic comics bro opinion one could have, but I love him with every ounce of my soul. I went through a stage that I’m sure many teenage Bat-fans do in which I insisted The Dark Knight must be dark and serious and edgy, but as I get older, something I appreciate more and more about the character is his versatility. Just as Batman by Dick Sprang is no less valid than Batman by Frank Miller, Schumacher’s vision of Gotham City is no less valid than Nolan’s.
Well, that escalated quickly. After more than a few episodes of set-up—which weren’t unwelcome—things in “Don’t Be Cruel” are finally progressing. Thomas Paine gets blown up in the KAL 007 disaster, RIP. That actually happened, and it’s a cool instance of For All Mankind blending fiction and reality. This proceeds to ramp up the tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, leading to Dani being held captive in Star City, but at least she’s not in the gulag! It also means Ellen is now Acting Administrator of NASA, which is a helluva promotion for someone so new to her Deputy Administrator job.
After a pep talk from Larry—although I hesitate to call it a pep talk—Ellen, with severe survivor’s guilt, since she was supposed to be on that flight too, goes full hawk on her fellow NASA colleagues. This pleases General Bradford, of course, but makes an enemy out of Margo. Ellen recommends to President Reagan that they retake the mining site from the third episode in the next 48 hours and that they need to arm Pathfinder, Ed’s shuttle. Why Ellen does this is unclear. Why does she want an ally out of a lame-duck President? Is it to boost the Mars aspect of the space program?
Margo is arguably the hero of “Don’t Be Cruel”, getting Sergei to get a message through to Star City and telling him that the Buran shuttle has a dangerous flaw–the O-rings, which you’ll remember from the Challenger disaster. Apparently, the Challenger disaster doesn’t occur in For All Mankind’s timeline, because Margo and company caught it in time. Telling Sergei might be a mistake, though, too, for all that it’s a humane thing to do–General Bradford told her not to pass on that information, and to some extent, she’s passing on a secret technological fact, making her a quasi-spy. But it was still the right thing to do. She also tells Aleida a story about Bill Strasser peeing himself and earning the nickname “Mr. Peanut”; knowing Aleida, this’ll come to bite both of them in the ass.
Dani, trapped in an apartment in Star City, has a talk with a Soviet Chief Engineer (Endre Hules) who tells her that Yuri Gagarin himself stayed in the very room where she’s trapped now. He carved his name into the door before leaving, as did a few other cosmonauts. The Engineer, who seems to be very high up, leaves a knife for Dani to do the same. Once she’s allowed to leave, we see she’s carved “Poole” into the door. It’s a nice reminder of the lasting impact that these astronauts and cosmonauts made, not just in space, but on the world they left for short periods of time.
Karen does two stupid things in this episode–first, she sells the Outpost to Sam Cleveland (Jeff Hepner) and two, she kisses Danny Stevens, a young man she’s known since infancy. And slow dances with him. It’s uncomfortable. Whether this will grow into something more has yet to be seen—she immediately goes home and has sex with Ed, who seems surprised but not unwelcoming to their having sex. Ed doesn’t do much in “Don’t Be Cruel,” which honestly isn’t a bad thing–it’s nice to see him take the backseat to both Karen and Kelly. Kelly has her adoption records and is heartbroken to find out that her mother died in childbirth. Her father, on the other hand, is alive and living in Arlington, TX. Presumably, the ever-resourceful Kelly will find him.
Finally, the armed Marine-astronauts do take back that mining site, rather easily. The cosmonauts take one look at their guns and just flee, which is actually pretty heartbreaking. The United States has clearly taken the first move in arming its astronauts. Tracy does some kickass flying, too. Good to see she’s back on the saddle. All in all, “Don’t Be Cruel” is probably one of the best episodes so far, really advancing the story and showing just how bad Soviet-US tensions got during the Cold War.
Watch For All Mankind Season 2 Fridays on Apple TV+.
Welcome to The Beat’s crowdfunding round-up: a collection of some of our favorite campaigns from the week including one-shots, on-goings, anthologies and everything in-between. This week, we’re checking out the surreal, reality bending debut of Butterfly Transition, a charming fantasy series called Unicorn: Vampire Hunter, and more.
Let’s get started!
Butterfly Transition: A comic of dreams and nightmares!
Creators: Lin Squiggly (writer), Mikael Hankonen (illustrator) Goal: $2,745 End date: April 27, 2021 Goodies: Grab the PDF for $5, or check out higher tiers for variants, and to help support this ongoing series.
Butterfly Transition; An original digital comic set upon the line between dreams and nightmares!
Butterfly Transition is a comic for anyone interested in dreams and the question of what defines reality. It follows Oscar as he trudges through the nightmare world of corpse-like flying monsters, and a strained relationship with his friend Nyla, then – occasionally – into the very ordinary world of the dream, where Nyla greets him happily. This debut is 22-pages, fully-colored, and available for preview on the campaign page.
Creators: Caleb Palquist (writer), Daryl Toh (artist), Dave Lentz (letterer) Goal: $6,000 End date: April 29, 2021 Goodies: Grab the PDF for $5, get the physical version for $9, or check out higher tiers for back issues, prints, and more.
A whimsical fantasy adventure about a unicorn who hunts vampires (with his horn, duh).
With a tagline like this one (see above) it’s hard to resist Unicorn: Vampire Hunter. Aside from the vampire-slaying unicorn, the cast also includes a curious young woman and a wise wizard. Together, they embark on various adventures, deepen their friendship, and overcome complicated villains and tragedies. Filled with charming fantasy art and wit to match, this series is great for fans of Dragon Prince and Gravity Falls.
Creators: Mat Groom (writer), Erica D’Urso (artist), Igor Monti (colorist), Kyle Higgins (editor) Goal: $31,968 End date: May 6, 2021 Goodies: Grab the digital version for $13, get the hardcover for $40, or look into higher tiers for behind-the-scenes content, prints, and more.
An all new graphic novel that combines superhero drama, teen angst, and tokusatsu action.
Cássia Costa and her mom have finally settled into a new city. She’s making friends at boarding school, she’s digging her classes, she even has a cool new bracelet. A magical one, actually, that thrusts her into a strange war and a rad set of armor to defend her home with. That’s just the set-up for Inferno Girl Red, the vibrant new tokusatsu graphic novel. At 100+ pages, this is a full, stand-alone story.
Creators: Level Ground Comics Goal: $7,000 End date: April 30, 2021 Goodies: Pledge $5 for the PDF, $10 for the softcover, or check out higher tiers for additional anthologies, stickers, and more.
A comic anthology that’s all about music.
Level Ground Comics is bringing together 16 artists to create an anthology all about music. Each story will be black-and-white, run about 4 pages, and feature one of 10 up-and-coming editors, with narratives giving their own spin on the Greatest Hits theme in settings ranging from the fantastical to the everyday and – yes – the high school band. For previews and a list of creators, head over to the campaign page.
Muhammad Ali: The Greatest Comics Biography of All Time
Creators: Ryan Alexander-Tanner (author) Membership Levels: Get a digital subscription to each chapter as it releases for $3 a month, or pay $5 a month to add on an exclusive printed edition.
A Comics Biography about Muhammad Ali.
Over 12 chapters and 400 pages, the story of Muhammad Ali is being retold in graphic novel form. This Patreon campaign’s goal is to produce that graphic novel, with each individual chapter being made available on a regular basis for anyone who supports the project at the $3. The comic is black-and-white, is fully scripted, and just needs your help to keep going.
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