Thursday, March 28, 2019

Quantum 2

Bryson Sams as Miles Quantum is back!

You probably remember the post from the other day about the film Quantum, but just in case you don't... Quantum is a really really short film made by a group of maybe 12 year olds, maybe 13, one of them being this kid named Bryson Sams. The film is all about a lonely young superhero policing the loading dock area behind a nondescript business/warehouse, and while there, facing down an even younger looking super... villain, I think? The who, what, and why are not that clear. Like I said, the film's pretty quick, and light on story, but surprisingly, it didn't look that bad. In the end, it was a valiant effort that didn't really work out, but hey, at least they tried, right? Anyway, today's short film is the sequel to Quantum, and the second film in what looks to be a trilogy.

It's called Quantum 2: The Surge!

This is the synopsis: When Miles and Phil are given abilities by a Dangerous Figure, they must stop him before he can cause any harm.

A dangerous figure, you say?

Well, well, well... Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention...

So, this kind of explains why Quantum isn't mentioned at all over at IMDB, as Quantum 2: The Surge is obviously a kind of reboot/reimagining of the original attempt. This time around, there's actual dialogue, the production values are somewhat better, the special effects are more intense, and the credits are no longer almost the exact same length as the actual movie, so... lots of general improvement going on here. Plus, the pure dedication to coverage shots speaks of a real passion for film-making, so that's laudable.

Yes, the script is overwritten and kind of drags, and repeats itself too, a pretty notable achievement for a 15 minute short film, but still... it's a decent-ish first draft... for what it is. I wouldn't call it good by any stretch, but I like the passion and the drive behind this project, and the potential on display. I'll be interested in seeing more from this Sams kid in the future.

And the future is... Legacy!

So, here's the thing... as far as I can tell, the Quantum films were all produced by a place called TapeSlate Productions. They seem to be some kind of a For Hire Production House. Now, I don't want to just assume that it's owned by someone related to one of the young actors in these films, but their Youtube page is not only the Quantum films, but a half dozen or so other short films that--at least after an initial glance--all seem to star the same kids, and maybe a few of their older siblings... This isn't a bad thing, but I'm just saying... Anyway, I love that these kids seem to have an outlet for their film ideas, and that they're running with it, so good on them.

My point of bringing this up is that the Legacy short film seems to be about a bunch of the characters from all of the various TapeSlate short films, with the idea that they are being brought together to fight some Multiversal threat... probably more than one Dangerous Figure, I assume.

Do I love the fact that a bunch of pimple-popping AV nerds from some third ring suburb somewhere out in Middle-of-Nowheres-ville are making their own backyard version of the Avengers? Fuck yeah, I do! But am I concerned that this trailer was posted a year ago, and yet so far there seems to be no  sign of a full length version of the short film Legacy!?!? 

A little, yes, but I remain hopeful.

And ever watchful...


Tuesday, March 26, 2019


It's short film time again!

I watch a ton of these things. I don't know why. I guess I just appreciate the effort. Plus, I kind of feel like someone has to, y'know? It's like genre short stories... there isn't really a market for them anymore, there's very few places left that even buy and publish them, but people are still out there, writing them--myself included. I think this is mostly due to tradition. Short stories used to be the way you eventually ended up with a book deal, but that's not true anymore... mostly because nobody reads short stories anymore... just like nobody really watches genre short films anymore. So, like I said... somebody has to.

And today, that somebody is us, Dear Reader.

So, for today's short film, here's a couple of weird red flags right from the start... First off, I could only find one image for this short, and that's it. Secondly, weirdly, there's no listing for this short on IMDB at all. Nothing. Even stranger, there is a listing for the writer, director, and star of the film: Bryson Sams. The next strange part? Bryson looks like he's maybe 13? Maybe. Maybe younger. And the kid is prolific too. According to his IMDB, he's made a half dozen different short films. In fact, this one that we're about to watch, despite not being listed on IMDB at all, looks like it's actually the first entry in a superhero short film trilogy, although maybe the third one isn't out yet...

Whatever... I'm gonna watch all three of these.

Here's the summary: Miles Quantum lives alone, shutting out all family he knows. Broken by the event that took his parents away and the event that gave him his ability, Miles must overcome his past so he can stop others just like him. 

Let's do this...

Half of this film is credits. 

That's incredible. The actual film itself is three minutes and thirty-three seconds long, but with the credits, it's six minutes and twenty-one seconds long. I don't want to hack on what is obviously a child's efforts, but damn... that's ill-advised, I think...

So, I watched this short film before I knew a kid (and probably his parents) were behind it, and as a result, it has since moved up in my esteem somewhat. Yes, the script is sparse, if it exists at all, and it's nearly impossible to guess the specifics of the plot just from watching the film--not if you haven't read the synopsis first--and there's also no dialogue for some reason, even though there are some voice-overs that were very obviously added after the fact, but hey... the special effects were nice.

Good job, Bryson... keep it up.


Monday, February 25, 2019


I like comics.

This isn't news, I know, but sometimes you need to restate your mission statements, y'know? I've been buying them for years, and I still visit my Local Comics shop regularly--although not on EVERY Wednesday anymore, more like twice a month, and usually just on the weekends. Life is too busy for that kind of commitment. Plus, an upside of the new schedule is that I have more time to read all of the comics I buy, with the downside being that it's suddenly much easier to see just how much I spend a month on the stupid things... which, yeah...yeesch... But that aside, my point is, I'm a regular reader still, if not a more frugal and discerning one now, or at least I'm attempting to be.

Comic books are responsible for a lifetime love of reading, something I'm trying to spark in younger cousin right now, using the Ultimate Spider-man collections. When I was younger than he is now, I can remember my Uncle's room at my Grandparent's house, a veritable drift of comics scattered across the floor, and the rising chorus of Angels as I knelt among them. I loved reading those old comic books. For years after, my grandparents would always give me a random stack from his old stash whenever they’d visit us. Eventually that massive box ended up at Dad’s, and every visit I would pull it out and go through the contents, alphabetizing titles, putting them in numeric order, and then settling in and reading them all, one by one, all summer long.

Never got old.

That's where I first saw Captain America and the Falcon's adventures against Hydra and the evil Captain America from the 1950s (you can always spot him because there's no red and white stripes on the back of his uniform. That, and he's super racist.) I also saw Cap and the Falcon fight the Tumbler, which was... less impressive. Those books are also how I met the Justice League and their counterparts from Earth-2, the Justice Society and watched them team-up to save the original Seven Soldiers of Victory, who were lost in time. I saw Jimmy Olson become a Turtle boy (not Mitch McConnell), and the Flash and Superman race to see who's the fastest. This is where I saw the Avengers use Doctor Doom's Timepad to travel back in time to try to save Bucky from dying in WWII, and fail. I followed Easy Company, the Howling Commandos, and the Unknown Soldier as they fought their way across a war ravaged Europe. I held a tattered Silver Surfer #1 in my hands as carefully as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls, and saw Norin Radd bow to Galactus for the first time. I saw Superman with a head of giant ant. I also saw him in a wheelchair, begging for change. I saw him polish a moon to reflect sunlight onto a dark planet, and fight alongside King Arthur. I saw vengeance-driven Spider-man, in a blind rage after the death of Gwen Stacy, decide to let the Green Goblin die, impaled on his own Goblinglider, which is, of course, the Marvel version of being "foisted by one's own petard."

Worlds upon crazy worlds...

So anyway, this is why I write about them so much now. It's why I have a tag devoted to comics on this blog, and why I rank my favorite comics here every year (although the last couple have been over at Lewton Bus). This is also why I write about specific issues and special events, why I write about some of the cartoons and big movies coming out, as well as some of the little ones, and some of the really little ones too.

It's one of my things.

But, why, right? Why bother? Why do I still read comics now, especially in an era when so many of them are being made into TV shows and movies that deliver the same stories and experiences? Why spend so much time on a hobby where the physical medium itself seems more and more outdated with every year? Why keep up with something that is so often dismissed as nothing but a kid’s hobby? Why, when an overwhelming majority of my fellow fans are some of the worst people alive?

Because I like comics.

I mean, I could do the whole “they’re an unlimited budget imagination fest” type of thing as a rationalization (yawn). Or I could talk about escapism, and the perfect blending of art and prose and blah, blah, quack-quack, and expressionism like some kind of MCAD reject. I could go on and on, pontificating about how sequential art storytelling is actually the earliest form of storytelling, stretching all the way back to cave paintings that are thousands of years old… but in the end, all of that stuff is just bullshit and puffed-up chests and tired excuses pushed by boring geeks too concerned with the weight of their own massive inferiority complexes.

I just like comics. That’s all.

I also like zombies, and zombie apocalypses specifically. I've never really been into the gore that much, but I'm drawn to the whole survival horror aspect. I'm much more a DAWN fan than a NIGHT fan, if you catch many meaning (Although I do love NIGHT). The societal breakdown, the scavenging in the ruins of the old world, the creations of ad-hoc forts and their defense, the mini wars waged between groups of survivors for the right to determine the direction of the next age of civilization, all of that stuff is right up my alley. 

I love that stuff. 

This shouldn't be a shock either. I write about zombies a lot here too, mostly the various examples of zombies in pop culture, but I also wrote a whole book about them myself a few years ago. It was pretty good, I think, at least for a first novel. I worked on it for a few years, wrote it and rewrote it, and then I queried for awhile and actually came pretty close to getting an agent, but it didn't happen. I've since moved on to other projects, but here's a sample of the book, if you're interested.

So, all of this is my... perhaps too long way to explain that, while it may seem a little tired and obvious, and maybe a little past the crest of this particular genre's wave at this point, when I heard that DC Comics was putting out a six issue limited series featuring the DC heroes in the middle of a zombie-like apocalypse, I was interested right away... because it's my kind of thing.

It's called DCEASED.

And by the way, it took me waaaaaay too long to figure out why they were spelling it that way...

DCEASED is written by Tom Taylor. He's a well-known comic writer, as well as a playwright apparently. In the comic world, he's known for Injustice: Gods Among Us, All-New Wolverine, X-Men: Red, a bunch of old Dark Horse Star Wars titles, on and on. He's been around awhile. I've never read any of his stuff, at least not that I can recall, but I've heard a lot of good things about some of his recent titles, so right now I've got an All-New Wolverine trade on my to-be-read pile, and I'm interested in diving into Injustice too, because I'm a sucker for a dystopian alternate world story. We'll see. Maybe I'll post about them. In the meantime, he's going to be joined on DCEASED by a team of artists that include Trevor Hairsine, Stefan Gaudiano, James Harren, and Rain Beredo. 

Here's the Synopsis: DCeased is a horror tale set in a catastrophic alternate universe version of the DC universe. In it, Batman must deal with the pandemic unleashed when Darkseid deploys a techno-organic virus that infects the world’s networks and spreads to humanity, making them raging, mindless marauders.

Okay. Sure. I get it. I understand. I mean, it's Batman-centric and it's about a zombie-like apocalypse. I'll admit that it's not the most brand new idea ever. After all, Marvel Zombies did the same basic thing 5 years ago, and that trend came and went since then, right?

But who cares?

The devil, as they say, is in the details. I get that some people aren't into zombies in general, especially anymore, and that's fine, but I'm interested. There's potential to tell something new and different here, or something old and fun, or a combo of both. Who knows? I'm willing to give it a couple of issues and see what happens, because I like comics and I like zombies. I also really like that this project is a non-canonical, self-contained mini-series. That means it will have a beginning, a middle, and an ending, like a real story should... hopefully. Ideally, it also means that this mini-series will be free from the shackles that is Long-Term Continuity. 

I like this model. I think it should be the future of comics.

One of the problem with comics is that certain "fans" constantly complain how nothing ever changes, so nothing matters. Nothing changes. No one ever ages. No one dies, or if they do, it's not for long. Everything is always status quo. Blah, blah, blah. Death seems to be the only dramatic "stake" these people understand, and when you're talking about a 60 year old character that is a billion dollar IP, death obviously isn't an option, which they already know, so they safely complain how nothing ever changes... until something does. Then they lose their shit. Maybe it's because there's someone new behind the mask, and maybe that character is a woman or a PoC, or maybe there was a shift in the character's focus, or their history, or maybe the character's actually died. So they complain. They complain for many reasons. They complain because they're whiny entitled buttholes and obnoxious gatekeepers. Most of all, they complain because of what they perceive as a violation of the Holy Writ known as Long-Term Continuity. 

To answer your question, Batman... Long-term Continuity is the chain around the neck of the industry, choking off its creativity. Long-term Continuity is the idea that something was written in... oh, let's say 1978, where a character said or did something notable in a story, and ever since then, that character's tale has been shaped by that moment. From that point on, that character can no longer act in any way that contradicts that moment, it's a set-point, like Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue in 1492. The problem with this, at least when it comes to long-running serials like most superhero comics, is that that moment narrows narrative options harshly. Actively--and passively--holding on to stories and moments from literal decades ago does nothing but eventually cut off any new directions, having predetermined the story's path long ago. 

Succinctly put, Long Term Continuity makes the best creators slaves to the worst.

That's why I like these self-contained mini-series. The burden of Long Term Continuity suddenly becomes optional, instead of a mandatory weight. Suddenly, the writer is free to have all sorts of characters appear in the story, and have them do and say things that are no longer beholden to random minutia from years ago, or from concurrent and contradictory events in other titles that the characters might appear in as well. Suddenly, every character is in danger. Now, some might say that this kind of sudden freedom means characters will act too much outside of their long-established norms, but the freedom to do that is kind of the point. They'll also claim that, if a character dies, the fact that it happens outside of continuity, that it "doesn't count" makes that deaths cheap, but those are usually the same people who claim that the lack of character death in regular continuity robs the stories of all stakes. It's just so tedious. The only way to win is to stop bothering with these people altogether, because the truth is, while a character's death should always have meaning within a story, it will also never have meaning, because it's a story. That's just what it means to operate in this kind of boundless fictional setting, and a reader can either accept this and roll with the story as it happens, or don't.

My point is, I'm excited to have a book like this coming from the Big Two. I'm excited for this topic in a self-contained mini-series. I'm excited, because now it's about the story execution, instead of some random reader's experience or expectations. I'm interested in seeing what they end up doing with that freedom.

How about you?

Issue #1 hits your Local Comic Shop on May 1st, 2019.

Until then,

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Conviction – An Anthem Trailer

Anthem is a new video game. It's being released very soon, tomorrow even... apparently.

News to me...

I had to google information about Anthem after stumbling across this trailer. I thought it might be a spin-off of Destiny, another video game I know very little about, or maybe some new version of Halo, which I've played extensively, of course, but I'm still largely ignorant of the lore, because... who cares? And while it turns out the answer to whether or not Anthem is a spin-off is obviously yes in many ways, especially when it comes to the broad strokes of design and game-play, it's also a no, because the game is set in its own world, with a completely separate story of its own, and is it's own separate franchise.

Not that there's a whole lot of difference, from what I could tell...

So, Anthem is a single player, or co-operative multiplayer, third-person shooter and action role-playing game set in a contiguous open world. Up to four players can log-on together and play as “Freelancers” in their super-powered, fully armed, and fully customizable exosuits called “Javelins.” Neither of the names seem to have any context where they make sense, at least not that I can find. There’re four kinds of Javelins: The balanced Ranger, the tank-like Colossus, the ninja-like Interceptor, and the… flying telekinetic(?)… called The Storm. Apparently, there are different fractions, or “psychotic gangs of 12 year olds and/or 40 year old dudes who rage-scream racism at other players” as they’re known in gaming circles, that you can join too. Plus, players can also build relationships with various NPCs, or Non-Player Characters, which are characters run by the game. These relationships can apparently become “romantic” which is super creepy and weird, and sadly… kind of expected. Players start from a central point, a city-state known as Fort Tarsis, where they get their assignments. They can explore ancient ruins, fight monsters and marauders, and also get caught in “Shaper Storms” which are massive storms that can alter the world’s very terrain. 

I swear, that's all real.

In my opinion, judging by experience, and from the game’s description, it sounds like Anthem will hold with the tradition I have found to be true of most “open world RPGs” where there is both too much to do, and yet, too little to do at the same time, and I'd eventually get bored and walk away from the game before completing it. Not that I will ever find out, of course, since the only game I ever play like this is Halo, or maybe Titanfall 2, and even those I don't play so much anymore.

And yet... here we are, it the middle of a blog post about it...


Neil Blomkamp is a well-known name in geek and movie circles.

I've mentioned him a time or two in posts here. He's somewhat of a polarizing figure in cinema now, but way back in 2009, he made a big splash with District 9. That film has lost some of its luster in light of his later films, but at the time, he was heralded as a new voice in genre film-making, and despite some problematic issues in the film, it seemed like he might actually have some real potential to bring something new and interesting to film. After all, he had a clear aesthetic, one that was actually pretty cool, a style that was both hi-tech and yet industrial, bristling with kinetic power and yet looked "low born" and dirty, evocative of the natural evolution of the "Apple IIE and hydraulics" era of 70's sci-fi. It had a fantastical realism, if you will. He had a great eye for action, too.  His action set pieces were brutal and sprawling and vicious, shocking in their intensity, but fun and surprisingly swift on their feet too. 

Also, super gory...

But as he released more work, it became obvious that it was plagued with intentional, pretty ham-fisted, and somewhat wrong-headed themes of race and power and society, as well as the possibly unintentional themes of racism and privilege, often all at the same time, and tangled together in such a way that it seemed like he didn't quite realize everything he was actually saying in his films... at least, hopefully... which makes for a frustrating viewing experience, to say the least.

And then there was Chappie...

But let's not dwell on that.

Anyway, like I said, all that shit aside, the man's got a good eye and cool aesthetic, so when I saw that he had done a short film, or a trailer, or whatever the hell this thing is... I was interested. Blomkamp seems to have a time limit to his work, and once it goes beyond a certain length of time, the more confused it gets when it comes to the themes and the statements of the work, the more it loses the plot-line, the more unfocused and lost it all generally becomes, but if it's under five minutes... how bad could it be, right? It might be just fun, which would be nice. And this, this... whatever it is, is under five minutes, so why not check it out? Of course, I say "whatever it is" because here is the official Synopsis: A live-action story of survival set in the world of Anthem, decades before the events of the game. I mean, talk about zero to no effort on summarizing, right? That's a red flag.

Maybe this really was a bad idea... let's find out...

Well, it looks cool...

But that's like the one thing you can reliably expect, right? Good imagery. It feels a little unfair to note how this is only the most shallow of creations, at least narrative-wise, because I'm not sure they intended anything else. The real question is: What even is this thing? A trailer for the origin story of the game would be my first guess, but with no plans to create a longer version, how is it previewing anything at all? It's an implied story at best, and if it's set decades before the game, how do these narrative highlights figure into game play? Do they? Especially when you consider the fact that it mainly seems to focus on two things.

1. The woman in the forest
2. And Gray exosuit somehow betraying Yellow exosuit.

There's no story here, so we don't know the context for any of it, but I doubt the woman is still waiting to be found, since we just saw her get found, and supposedly decades before we even show up on the scene. We also didn't see any consequences from finding her and bringing her back to what I assume is the previously referenced Fort Tarsis, at least as far as I could tell, so I don't know how that could even begin to set up a story-line. Was it a good thing? Was it a bad thing? Is it an important thing? Was it even an unusual thing? Do people not go to the forest? What's her story?

...What's her name?

It's all unanswered, which leads me to believe there's a wiki page somewhere out there that explains everything that happened in this trailer, or whatever it is, but that just makes no sense... so it's a trailer to read a wiki page? I don't get it.

And then we've got the (I assume) two former friends/colleagues who have obviously had some kind of "parting of the ways" but again, there's no hints as to why, or over what, or even who they are to each other, so... I don't even know what that is... Or how it would affect a society decades later to the point that actual game-play hinges on you knowing about it.

But it does look cool.

Which means, hey... maybe this is the best type of project for Blomkamp.

Because whatever this thing is, there's no doubt that it's not intended to be deep, or even a complete story. You scratch the surface on this thing, and it's nothing but air and questions all the way down. However, if you just watch it, it conveys a cool tone, a feeling of strife and bygone ages, a broken down, back-end of an era, a time when things are slowly dying off, a time of conflict and danger and uncertainty, so that kind of works, even if that still means it's nothing but a really weirdly conceived and formatted commercial. But if it works, it works, right?

So maybe he should stick with this stuff. Short but sweet, all hat and no cattle... but in a good way. Fancy commercials. It's a path Blomkamp has been on for awhile now. After taking some well-deserved hits over some truly bad films, he launched something called Oats Studio. The idea was to create an alternate distribution network for films using Steam, and his first toe-in-the-water attempts were a series of genre short films. Back then, my plan was to follow and review each one, but... I tapped out early. They just weren't that well done, and for all the same reasons that plagued his other work, just a jumble of confused themes and half-baked story-lines that all looked kinda cool.

I haven't checked in in awhile, but this seems like a positive evolution of his original intent. Short but shallow, fun but empty. He still has legions of fans--even I clicked on this thing due solely to his name being attached--and those fans are devoted, to say the least. In a lot of ways, they mirror Zach Snyder's fandom, and now, looking at them both, I wonder if it's due to their similar styles, the very slick, but very surface-level type of film-making, that attracts these people. Maybe both Directors really do represent the "escapist" cinema their fandoms crow about, films that not only allow you to "turn off your brain" and enjoy them, but in fact require it in order for you to enjoy them.

Sometimes you need more than that though, y'know?

A drunken Superman pauses to vomit as Batman waits in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

So, I feel like I should give up on Blomkamp at this point. 

I think I've given him plenty of chances to deliver something new, well-done, and exciting, and instead have consistently found him lacking, but at the same time... like Snyder... there's that potential. He could still make something truly great. Often times, it's just there, too... almost good, but not quite. But how does he get it back, how does he go from here to there? Honestly, for both of them I think the answer lies in a partner, someone who can wrangle Blomkamp, or Snyder depending, as well as create a good story and deliver a good script, and all so that Blomkamp or Snyder can focus solely on the visuals and action set pieces, because the writing part is not their bag. But could the egos handle it? It's probably not for me to say. Until that happens, though, I'm feel safe in saying that we're just gonna get more of the same, regardless of your opinion of the quality.

But I seem to have drifted off topic... where was I?

Anthem. It's a video game.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Umbrella Academy vs The Doom Patrol

Love is in the air...

And two streaming services, Netflix and DC Universe, have both decided to get into the spirit of things--on this the most romantic of weekends--by simultaneously releasing new comic-book-based shows centering on an obscure team of emotionally, mentally, and physically damaged weirdos, outcasts, and non-traditional superhero types, both brought together by an emotionally distant, somewhat manipulative, and kinda abusive old white guy... Why? Because it's Valentine's Day.

First up, we have The Doom Patrol...

Synopsis (of both the comic book and the show): The members of the Doom Patrol all gained their superhuman abilities through horrible accidents that also left them scarred and disfigured. Traumatized, broken, and alone, Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane have all been brought together by Dr. Niles Cauler—a modern day mad scientist known as The Chief—to investigate the weirdest phenomena in existence. Part support group, part Super team, the Doom Patrol is a band of super-powered freaks who fight for a world that wants nothing to do with them. 

It's nice to see Brendan Fraser in stuff again, right? He's pleasant.

This is a long trailer, but it's the best one of the lot, as it does both a pretty good job of explaining the set-up without giving away much plot, and it seems to accurately convey the kind of haphazard emotional tone of the title. Also, honestly... for me, it really makes the show look much better than any of the other trailers did. The previous ones all seemed to lean a little too hard on the "wacky" aspects, and that wasn't working for me. Plus, a big part of the comic I wasn't interested in was the characters' mental issues. It never worked for me, but they seem to sell it better here, so that's a bonus. Now, some buttholes out there might dismiss this show out of hand, simply because, as they see it, it's nothing but more of DC's dogged efforts to make Cyborg happen, and to those people I say... shut up.

Next up, we have the Umbrella Academy...

Synopsis (of both the comic book and the show): On the same day in October 1989, forty-three infants are suddenly and inexplicably born around the world to women who showed no signs of pregnancy when the day began. Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a billionaire industrialist and possible space alien, finds and adopts seven of these children. Those children were all born with special powers… well, most of them anyway. Hargreeves then creates The Umbrella Academy and begins to prepare his “gifted children" to save the world from the coming Apocalypse. But not everything went according to plan. Now, decades later, the six surviving members reunite upon the news of Hargreeves' passing. Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Vanya and Number Five must now somehow find a way to all work together again in order to solve a mystery surrounding their father's death, and all while the imminent threat of a global apocalypse looms.

Very Wes Andersony, right?

Honestly, both shows seem pretty Wes Andersony, but Umbrella Academy really glombs onto that aesthetic, much more than Doom Patrol does. It might just be a generational source material thing, with Doom Patrol obviously pulling hard from its 90s run for the most part, and Umbrella Academy a straight-up product of the aughts, whatever... with the cut-away house view, the retro-pop and the dancing and the blah blah blah... it's so Wes Andersony. It looks like Life Aquatic was mixed up with Royal Tannebaums and was then liberally doused in superhero sauce. It's the hipster poutain of superhero shows. I'm not complaining, I happen to love poutain... I'm just making note of it. Doesn't matter. Either way, regardless of what you think of it, the style really shouldn't surprise anyone, after all, the comic was created by Gerald Way, and he's the leader singer of My Chemical Romance, so.... whatta ya' gonna do?

So, after checking out the trailers and the various images, what do you think? They really are similar, aren't they? Two sides of the same coin, as the kids say. Two teams, both alike in history... if you're of a more suave, literary bend... like myself (sits by fire, smokes pipe, pushes glasses up nose). And it's a pretty familiar history too, right? People born with special skills, special skills that make them unique and often hated too, who are then made into a team by an old white dude, who might be in a wheelchair, but also might not? Sounds like the X-Men to me, right? Did you notice? You sly duck, you did, didn't you?

The question is... Did they both copy the X-Men?

The answer to that question is no... and yes.... and no and yes and also no. And also... who cares?

No, because The Doom Patrol first appeared three months before the first X-men appearance, and that kind of finality is hard to argue against. But also... Yes, because back in those days the pool of people  who were working on comics was very small, small enough that when people worked at both DC and Marvel, it was often called "crossing the street" for work, so, sure, it's possible that the idea could've been overheard or something and used as a jumping off point for a slightly different idea, and just made it into production first. But then... No, because the same exact thing could've just as easily happened the other way, with the X-Men being created off of some overheard or half-glimpsed development of the Doom Patrol, only done differently in such a way to connect more with audiences and become the more known brand, despite not being the original. So who knows. And then there's... Yes, because Gerald Way is a well-known fan of comics in general and Grant Morrison specifically, who not only wrote The Doom Patrol's most well-known and possibly most defining run (certainly the one the show seems to be relying the most on...), he has also written one of the most franchise defining runs of the X-Men too. He's one of the reasons the first movie's uniforms look the way they do. Way even sought out Morrison when he was first working on the Umbrella Academy, and the writer gave him some advice: "Use all of your ideas, don't save them, use them all." So Way is obviously aware of the books that have come before him, as are all comic fans, and that foundational idea basis of the aged mentor training a bunch of teens to be heroes isn't exactly uncommon either, so it's fair to say there may have been some direct or at least indirect inspiration. But on the other hand... No, because these books are all very different, bone deep different, and these initial similarities are mostly just obvious surface level stuff, and in the end, it's the details and narrative decisions that matter, right?

Not that the similarities don't exist. Of course they do. I see them. You see them. We all see them. There's no argument there, but maybe the real answer of "who copied who" doesn't matter at all?

So who cares?

Moving on, what follows could maybe be considered spoilers by some types, but also might not be true for the show at all, I don't know. Just be warned.

The Cast of Characters

The Chief (Dr. Niles Calder) and The Monocle (Sir Reginald Hargreeves)

I'm going to be pulling some of this out of my butt, as my Doom Patrol knowledge is spotty, but one thing I do know is that the title's history veers wildly, motivations and personal origins exploding and re-forming and doubling back on themselves every couple of years. So, it's my understanding that the The Chief started as a benevolent benefactor, but was eventually turned into a manipulative jerk, slyly controlling the members of Doom Patrol as his own personal super team, and is eventually revealed to be directly responsible for the accidents that created them all. The DC Comic book universe reboots itself a lot, resetting stories back at square one, and in every new universe, Calder is either a failure or a villain. I don't know if that's what's they're doing with the show, but... it probably is.

The Monocle, on the other hand, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, is a dick. In every flashback, he's always a dick. He does and says dickish things to the kids regularly, and he only cares about his own agenda. The best news about him is that he's dead now.

Robotman (Cliff Steele) and Spaceboy (Luthor Hargreeves)

Cliff Steele is an interesting character. In his best incarnation, he's a metaphor for the physically disabled, a former race car driver whose brain was implanted in insensate metal body, so he's trapped within himself. He's practically indestructible, he's strong and can't be hurt, but he can't touch either. He can't feel. He's a very tragic figure, burning up with anger and sadness and loneliness, and it will be interesting to see if the show dares to really play that up in the show.

Luthor Hargreeves is known as Space Boy, and he has a similar beginning to Cliff Steele. He's super strong, fast, and nearly indestructible, he's an adventurer who loses his body in an accident on the moon, and is implanted into a cybernetic gorilla's body. That's great sci-fi nonsense right there, and I just love it, but Luthor doesn't seem to be as bothered by the transformation as Cliff is, but like I said... he IS in a cybernetic gorilla body, so what would he really have to complain about, right?

Cyborg (Victor Stone) and The Kraken (Diego Hargreeves)

Cyborg has been a well-known character forever. He was a staple on the Teen Titans during an era when the Teen Titans was the best selling book on the rack. And while I don't think he's ever been on Doom Patrol, he has been in multiple cartoons and even appeared in the TV show Smallville. He's well-known, but he's never really been a true A-tier marquee character. Then DC "suddenly" realized that its A-tier list of characters were 99% white guys, and that they needed to make some changes. Their first answer right away was Cyborg, and that's a smart choice. Not only is he a good character, with a good backstory, he's PoC character with abilities that aren't rooted somehow in his skin color or culture, and as a bonus, he also provides a much needed answer to Iron Man's world-wide success, as the JLA generally needed a tech-based hero, and Shaq had already ruined Steel forever. But then the Justice League movie came out, and now Cyborg is on the Doom Patrol.

The Kraken is the Daryl of the team. The Hawkeye. He's the Walter Sobchak. He's the Sonny Corleone character. When the story calls for someone to yell and stomp off, or maybe punch somebody, Diego is the guy to do it. The comic mostly focuses on his use of knives and fighting, but I believe his actual power is his ability to hold his breath underwater for a long time. It makes sense that they don't mention that much, honestly, at least narratively speaking, much like Aquaman, that's a particular power set that doesn't come in handy all that often, but it does explain the code-name. Anyway, maybe that's why he's always shouting and stomping off.

Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr) and The Rumor (Allison Hargreeves)

Not to be confused with the Mom from the Incredibles, Rita Farr was an Olympic swimmer turned old time Hollywood movie actress, who... (checks notes) inhales volcanic gas? Underwater? And then becomes... saggy like runny plastic? Eventually, she can grow and shrink, but initially she couldn't control her powers and it looks like the show is going to really push the whole "Oops! skin blob" idea, which is super gross and also awesome. Beyond this general knowledge, this is one of the Doom Patrol characters I don't have much connection with. I think her thing is going to be that she used to be pretty, but now she's all blobby and saggy, which I guess is something I can super relate to, so I'm expecting to become a big Rita Farr fan.

The Rumor is an interesting character. The Monocle says that she's an "Insufferable, narcissistic creature, but extremely useful. Prevaricates with appalling ease." The Monocle is a dick, obviously, but he's not lying here. Allison's power is the ability to manipulate reality through lying. If she lies about something, reality will shift to make it true. "I heard a rumor..." she'll say. For example, at one point, as a kid, she lost an arm during one adventure, but she still has two arms in the modern day adventure. I'm pretty sure it's not a robot arm, and while it's never said that she lied herself back into having two arms, I think that's what happened, and that is awesome.

Negative Man (Larry Trainor) and The Seance (Klaus Hargreeves)

As little as I'm familiar with Elasti-girl, I'm even less familiar with Negative Man. I don't even quite understand him. Larry Trainor was once a fighter pilot who... I don't know... got bathed in cosmic rays? When he came down, he was radioactive and had to be wrapped in special bandages, Invisible Man style, in order to protect others from the radioactivity. He also has this "Negative Spirit" being inside of him that he can expel? It looks like a silhouette of a person. It can fly and make stuff blow up, and attack things, so it's basically like post-Thanksgiving dinner, amirite? Eh? Eh? You see what I did there? Anyway, Larry can only let it out for 60 seconds at a time, because he gets so weak while separated, he could die. So, I can appreciate the weird novelty of the character, but really, there's no theme going on here at all, he's just a hodge-podge of odd, so that makes it hard to latch onto anything. Beyond that, his history is all over the place too. He's been a man, he's been a woman (although that may have been a different character), he's been intersex, he's been combined with other humans and sometimes with aliens too. There's just a lot going on there.

The Seance, on the other hand, is super easy to figure out. Klaus Hargreeves is a psychic, who can communicate with the dead, and has telekinetic abilities. He's also a big-time drunk and a fuck-up junkie. He's super Gothy too. He's the sassy one on the team, the wry one, each cutting statement said with a martini in hand, or maybe a artfully broken and unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. In the show, he's is going to be played by Robert Sheehan, who played Nathan on the show Misfits, and that is just fantastic.

Crazy Jane (Kay Challis) and Number Five (The Boy)

These two here are classic characters, in their own specific ways.

Crazy Jane is a classic Morrison character. She has 64 separate personalities and each one has a different super power. This kind of set-up lends her to two regular roles in the story... one, it means she does a lot of cliched "crazy talk" like she might be a creepy baby person during one cold opening, or maybe a drill sergeant, when a battle is going poorly. One time she might be a guy named Rick with a mullet and a love classic rock, other times, she might be a June Cleaver-like Mom. Or, maybe she'll really flip out and become a monster. It's just that kind of thing, over and over, both unpredictable, and yet completely predictable, and all while she's wearing lace dresses and chokers and combat boots. The other role she inhabits is the deus ex machina. 64 different superpowers means you've got one for every situation, and there's no reason why you wouldn't use them that way, because if you don't, people will notice and point out how you're cheating. Obviously, I look askance the most when it comes to Crazy Jane.

Number Five, on the other hand, is the sci-fi classic of "old man in a boy's body" character. He's a boy who swears and drinks coffee and knows a lot of stuff about a lot of things. He vanished when he was ten and didn't return for 20 years. He can travel through time with his powers, and also uses them to appear to move very quickly. He knows some of the future, but most of it is really bad shit. Temporal surgeons have operated on him and messed with his genetics, turning him into a perfect killer, so there's that too, and he occasionally has to wipe out teams of future assassins who want his head for various reasons. He and Spaceboy are twins brothers, supposedly. This kind of Old Man Kid character can easily become an exposition bot, but in the comic at least, they make him pretty interesting. It'll be interesting to see if the young actor playing the character can bring the right mix of crotchety and cultured to bear.

The Horror (Ben Hargreeves)

There isn't a sixth Doom Patrol member to pair The Horror up with, at least not in this upcoming TV version. To be fair, there really isn't a sixth member of the Umbrella Academy either. Ben Hargreeves was with them as a kid, but at some point in their adventures, he died. No one has really said why or how so far either. There isn't a lot of information about the guy, he's mostly sort of glimpsed in the background. He seemed weird, or... weirder than the others, at least. There were apparently tentacles that came out of his stomach? Although, knowing the book, it's a fair bet that his actual power was that he was born with a symbiotic octopus in his belly button. Fifty-fifty, even bet either way. I suppose this is all a story for the future, maybe. For now, there's a memorial statue on the grounds of the Umbrella Academy, and that's about all we get when it comes to The Horror.

The White Violin (Vanya Hargreeves)

Vanya Hargreeves is a complex character. I can't say much about her, because she's integral to the plot, or at least one of the possible plots they may explore. Vanya's deal was that she wasn't born with a power, and that unavoidable exclusion from the group, coupled with The Monocle's general dickishness about it, always weighed on her. She plays a mean violin though...

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

In the end, I'm leaning more toward Umbrella Academy. It's just more my thing. I'm a fan of the books, I like the cast, and the trailers for the show have seemed pretty well done. I'm not sure when I'll get around to Doom Patrol. I don't dislike the Doom Patrol. I'm interested in seeing it, but... less so. The title has obviously been around for a long time, but their hey-day was a late 80s, early 90s heavily gothy corner of comics that never really quite clicked for me. Plus, it wasn't until this last trailer that I was really impressed by what I saw. Add to that the fact that the DC Universe App is annoyingly unavailable through my X-Box, which makes my ability (and desire) to subscribe and sit down and watch their stuff (despite being a huge Young Justice fan) almost non-existent, which means that, yeah... it'll probably be awhile before I get around to catching Doom Patrol. I'll probably wait until all of the episodes of this and Young Justice are available, and then I'll sign up and make a day of it. Maybe. Eventually. Or maybe I'll wait for the DC Universe App to fold and the shows to trickle down to other platforms. We'll see... Whereas, on the other hand, I will be ordering enough food, and then watching the hell out of Umbrella Academy this weekend.

How about you?

The Umbrella Academy starts today on Netflix, and every episode is available. The Doom Patrol, meanwhile, also starts today, but it is stuck on the crappy DC Universe streaming app with a new episode appearing weekly. 


P.S. I put a poll up over on my Twitter, concerning what kind of food I should order tonight: Chinese, Indian, or Wings and Salad, and I gotta say... I am shocked by the lack of early support for Chinese.