Forbidden Door Review

To keep it brief, I’m using this blog to write about wrestling now. Mostly All Elite Wrestling but also including New Japan Pro Wrestling, Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling, Stardom, the indies, probably not Impact, and never WWE unless they do something completely baffling and stupid I feel the need to write about.

Starting with Sunday’s Pay-per-view, the ever-anticipated crossover between AEW and NJPW entitled the Forbidden Door. Numerous injuries have made the build to this card a mess but the show ended up being one of AEW’s best pay-per-views. The credit has to go to particularly how it was paced and the quality of the wrestling. Even the lowest points of the show had pretty good wrestling and excellent pacing. I haven’t decided on a rating system, but I’m sticking with the Wrestling Observer style of _____ out of five, whatever that blank should be. I suppose books would make sense, stick to what I know, but I’ll think on it for now. Here is how I describe my ratings.

Below 🍕 = hated it

🍕 = did not like it.

🍕🍕 = it was okay

🍕🍕🍕 = liked it

🍕🍕🍕🍕 = really liked it

🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕 = loved it, it was amazing.

The Factory’s QT Marshall & Aaron Solow vs. Yoshi-Hashi & Hiroki Goto

Ever since Cody left it feels like QT Marshall is in a position exactly where he’s supposed to be, and to be fair, I’ve actually enjoyed most of his matches since he dropped the whole Tony Soprano Bowling League tough guy trying to be a top guy act. Hiroki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi and Solo are both solid wrestlers. This match was fun as a simple match to start your night of wrestling but not quite the main card. It wasn’t anything special but neither was it outright bad. There was one scary weird flip/dive to the outside by QT but he was caught pretty well and didn’t seem to be hurt.

🍕🍕

“Murderhawk Monster” Lance Archer vs. Nick Comoroto

This felt like a waste of time. This was a look at my phone kind of match. Comoroto has a great look but I find so many of his matches really kind of boring. This seemed like a match just have because Lance Archer is in the G1 Climax tournament. Lancer Archer is great but I’ve completely lost interest in him mostly, but then again I said the same thing right before the Hangman Page championship match and that was awesome. Lance Archer is one of those kind of wrestlers that he could have a great match next week and I’d be like, “I’m all in on this guy again” but the problem is his catchphrase is “Everybody dies” but everybody mostly does not. Towards the end I was starting to get sucked into the action but it wasn’t enough.

🍕

Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado vs. Swerve in Our Glory

Nice little story being told here about Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland, done much better than most tag teams break-up stories where after the first setback it goes straight to the team ending with one turning on the other. Right now, there is just trust issues which I am enjoying. The match itself contains four wrestlers I think are a lot of fun. Yoshinobu in the beginning not backing down from Lee was entertaining as hell. Despy and Swerve is a match I’d really like to see down the line higher on the card but what they showcased was a great but small taste of what those two could do together. Despy and Kanemaru had some great tandem offense on Keith Lee but the hot tag to Swerve had him coming in showing that unique offense only Swerve can do.

🍕🍕🍕1/2

The Gunn Club & Max Caster vs. NJPW LA Doji – The DKC, Kevin Knight, Alex Coughlin and Yuya Uemura

Max Caster’s raps have leaned far more into entertaining than cringe lately and I enjoyed this one a lot. As far as the LA Dojo is concerned, Kevin Knight was the stand-out MVP on his side but the DKC really needs to step it up cause he was just kinda there in this match. Danhausen’s interruption at the very beginning was kind of baffling but it served its purpose to give the LA Dojo was offense and some heat. Alex Coughlin also stood out as great in the match but it was so strange to see Max Caster fight from underneath like a babyface. I haven’t always been impressed with Max Caster’s in ring work but it feels like lately with these trios and singles matches without Bowens he has kind of had to step up. Yuya Uemura I was already familiar with so I don’t want to downplay his part in the match. He was excellent but being unfamiliar with Coughlin and Knight their work really stood out. The DKC however was kind of lackluster. Surely a face turn for the Acclaimed is in their near future. The fact that Billy Gunn is still in as great a shape and good in the ring as he is is kind of amazing, but with four on two the LA Dojo probably should have won.

🍕🍕

Now onto the main card.

Before that though, it must be said at times I’ve found Kevin Kelly kind of annoying as the main English commentator for NJPW but he was excellent tonight and will honestly carry a lot of good will into listening to his commentary on the next NJPW show I watch. His dynamic with Taz and Excalibur gelled so well and hearing him with Tony Schiavone was surreal. I didn’t miss Jim Ross at all, and although Jim has been better ever since CM Punk joined the company I feel AEW has grown passed the need for good ol’ JR but I understand not everyone will agree with that.

Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, & Minoru Suzuki vs. Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino, & Wheeler Yuta.

No Suzuki incident, Chicago is such a great wrestling crowd. The MVPs of this match was Jon Moxley’s two adopted sons, Shota Umino and Wheeler Yuta. The amount of offense Jericho let Shota have on him tells me he sees a lot in the son of the Red Shoes. One day when he’s older, Shota will actually beat Jericho and it’ll be one of those career-defining wins for the man Moxley calls ‘Shooter.” The crowd was going nuts for Wheeler Yuta and he was going full throttle in this match. The only person not cooking in this match was Sammy, who was kinda doing a paint-by-numbers kinda offense. Even Suzuki, who at this point doesn’t have to try very hard to still get a passable match but the devil grandpa turned it up tonight and was really going with Eddie Kingston. Eddie is his usual amazing self, All Japan style offense, one of the best sellers in the game, despite having Blood and Guts on Wednesday he went all out. I love Eddie Kingston. I’d really like to see more of Shota in AEW for a longer period. Give him an excursion, NJPW! The heels obviously win, as they should, for advantage in Wednesday’s Blood and Guts match but I absolutely loved this match.

🍕🍕🍕🍕.5

FTR vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb – Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

I love Khan’s whole aesthetic and Jeff Cobb is a good wrestler but I felt like Cobb in 2020 / most of 2021 was much greater than his output has been lately, or at least in this feud. On the main card, I felt like this was the weakest match on the show. I love the injury spot, especially playing into the anxiety of injuries going into the show by taking Dax out only for him to return to have the comeback spot for FTR. Gave time for Khan on the Cobb to get some heat with Cash Wheeler, Wheeler time to showcase what he can do without Dax, and forcing Cash to tag in Roppongi Vice. Still, some of it was kinda eh and maybe went on a little too long and the winner was kind of a forgone conclusion. Still. I am happy about 7-star FTR and it was a good match, just wasn’t a great match.

🍕🍕🍕

Malakai Black vs. The Bastard Pac vs. Clark Connor vs. Miro – The All-Atlantic Championship match.

Easily in the top three matches of the night. I knew nothing about Clark Connors coming in and they worked me and the audience so well in that regard. With Ishii out I thought Clark was gonna be a geek in this match, getting his ass kicked throughout and used to take the pin and that is how they worked it in the beginning until the second half of the match. Clark turned it up to 11 with a comeback no one saw coming that immediately made him the underdog people wanted to cheer for, and the audience in the United Center and me at home certainly did. Miro dominated the early going in the match, and was awesome throughout making me so happy for his return. This match made me really want to see a Miro vs. House of Black feud in the future, as well as another Miro vs. Pac match. I was actively hollering DO IT when Pac went for the Black Arrow on both Clark Connors and Malakai Black. As the Bastard is one of my favorites I was so happy to see him win the All-Atlantic championship, even if the name,e is a bit silly.

🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕

Bullet Club (Young Bucks + El Phantasmo) vs. Dude with Attitudes (Darby Allin, Sting, and Shingo Takagi).

What a blast of a match. It was so sad that Hiromu couldn’t be in this match cause he would have elevated it, but on the other hand, I don’t think much of Hikuleo so he may have brought it down. Although, the way the match was set up, I’m not even sure Hikuleo could of brought it down. I just want to remind everyone that Sting is 63 years old in this match and he killed simply by no selling a bunch of moves. The Pop Sting received when he no-sold the superkicks of the Young Bucks showed just how beloved Sting still is. El Phantasmo basically worked as a third Buck in this match keeping pacing with Matt and Nick’s obnoxious yet quick-paced style. Even when Sting messed up a small spot in the middle it didn’t take away anything about this match. Probably 4th in my match of the night.

🍕🍕🍕🍕3/4

Toni Storm vs. Thunder Rosa (c) for the AEW Women’s Championship

There was a part of me that thought, with Toni beating Britt Baker clean and Thunder Rosa taking bookings in other places where she might have to lose I thought Toni was gonna be crowned the new AEW women’s champion and I wouldn’t be mad about it. Honestly, this could easily go at the top of a list of best AEW women’s matches in 2022 with the perhaps come competition with Thunder Rosa vs. Serena Deeb. Thunder Rosa’s offense looked more fluid than it was earlier in the year, perhaps she really was banged up a bit when she won the title. As the only women’s match on the card, they really brought their A-game with hard hits and great wrestling. There is definitely a women’s title reign in Toni Storm sooner rather than later and Thunder Rosa is looking like a strong champion again. Toni kicking out of Thunder Rosa’s finisher only for Rosa to use one out of Dustin Rhodes’s playbook to finish this match was an awesome touch.

🍕🍕🍕🍕

Orange Cassidy vs. Will Ospreay (c) for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship

Easily my match of the night. I can’t stand Ospreay but I can’t deny he is an amazing wrestler. As if anyone could doubt OC can go, he proved them wrong here keeping up with Ospreay’s high-octane offense with a mix of OC’s silliness that ol’ Billy was keen to play along with which was a lot of fun. They started slow, slow for Ospreay that is, then built up the speed of the match as time went on. This was the kind of match that everyone knew Will was most likely winning but Orange had me convinced multiple near falls that had me thinking we’d see a match between Orange Cassidy and Juice Robinson in the future. It was slightly disappointing after the news leaked that Orange didn’t come out to Jane but Tony Khan explained in the press conference he didn’t have full clearance yet. I loved the sequence of OC smashing Ospreay’s head into the rail camera, tricking him into a moonsaulting only for Orange to roll out of the way. Will then to continue to do standing moonsaults to get OC, in the end, to try the top rope maneuver again only for it to be a ruse for Orange to get his knees up. Orange came out of this match, even in a loss, looking like a megastar, and with so many of their top guys having injuries, Tony Khan would do well to take advantage of that and book Orange in a strong feud this summer. Orange Cassidy doing Kawada kicks alone would make this a five and then the aftermatch only sealed the deal when Aussie Open and Ospreay went to beat down Orange after the win only for Roppongi Vice to try to make the save despite already having a match. Then something I never thought I’d hear watching an AEW pay-per-view Katsuyori Shibata’s music hit and he hit the ring in defense of Orange Cassidy. Shibata and Orange Cassidy in the ring, Orange putting the sunglasses on Shibata and giving the thumbs up. Amazing.

🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Seeing Claudio in AEW and letting loose against Zack Sabre Jr was wild but it wasn’t much of a technical wrestling match. Still, it was awesome to see. Claudio went in there like a canon only for Zack to slow him down and mock Claudio in the smarmy way he does. The whole time I kept thinking “Oh man, Eddie Kingston is going to be pissed off.” Claudio showed off why everyone who knows him and works with him says he’s an overall outstanding wrestler. His backbreakers looked brutal, and those fast-paced uppercuts in the corner look devastating. It was a fantastic debut for Claudio in AEW but I’m still craving that Danielson/ZSJ match badly and hope we get it soon like at say a Wrestle Kingdom. Sabre holding the triangle on Claudio’s arm as they got outside the ring was a move that looked like it wasn’t supposed to happen but turned into an incredible scene as Claudio carried ZSJ back into the ring with the crazy strength Claudio has. I didn’t believe for a second Claudio was going to lose in his debut but it was still an outstanding match. I was kind of hoping he’d retire the swing as a finisher, it doesn’t seem very Blackpool Combat Club to me, but it’s still a lot of fun.

🍕🍕🍕🍕

Adam Cole vs. Hangman Page vs, Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (c)

This match would have probably been better off as two singles match, or one triple threat without Adam Cole considering his injuries but I’m not going to take anything away from Adam Cole. I’ve been kind of tired of him lately but I felt this fourway he showcased offense that was less same offense every match like what happens in all his single matches. I feel bad for saying that considering his injury in the match but I’m not going to lie and say I’m not tired of him though I still think he’s a great wrestler. Hangman Page continues to prove why he should be considered the Ace of AEW. Okada continues to prove why he’s considered one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step in the ring. Finally, Jay White proves why he was considered to step up in place of Kenny Omega when he left NJPW. In my opinion, Jay White is a better heel and better wrestler than Maxwell Jacob Friedman. I don’t know if that is a hot take or not but I do know because of him wrestling in Impact and crowds that aren’t allowed to cheer people have forgotten how great he is. I kept expecting Jay White to be the one to betray Adam Cole but the fact that Cole beat him to was a great touch. A trope I love about multi man matches, triple threat, fourway, or otherwise are alliances being formed than those alliances breaking down when someone sees an advantage. On the second watch, I noticed Jay White constantly looking back at Adam Cole waiting to expect the betrayal only for it finally come when he let his guard down. Knowing the finish the second time around made me appreciate the match much more even though the first time it seemed very abrupt and anti-climactic. I didn’t need Jim Ross on commentary pointing out that it was anti-climactic but I maintain that AEW has grown past the need for Jim Ross at all. I loved Kevin Kelly on commentary bringing up Tanahashi seeing greatness in Hangman Page. On top of that, when Adam Cole got concussed he chose to end the match rather than continue to let Adam work hurt. I’m still not sure exactly when it happened, usually it seems pretty obvious but I hope Cole has a speedy and healthy recovery. Still, there was not a single rainmaker in this match and that kind of brought it down for me but the lead-up to the end was incredibly exciting.. An Okada/Hangman or a Jay White/Hangman singles match could contend for Matches of the Year and I want them to happen. The tease of the Bucks trying to go to check on Hangman and Kyle yelling at them to check on Cole was heartbreaking and dramatic in the best way.

🍕🍕🍕🍕

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jon Moxley for the Interim AEW World Championship.

Hiroshi Tanahashi is such a perfect babyface he got the Chicago crowd to cheer GO ACE over one of the biggest babyfaces and most beloved wrestlers in AEW, Jon Moxley. Tanahashi matching Moxley’s aggression was good in-ring storytelling considering his stances in the past about having honorable matches. They fit the NJPW style slow build transitioning to breakneck speed style of the match into a much shorter match length. Moxley was a safe bet to win as the Interim AEW champ and with the year he is having I hope he beats CM Punk for the belt when he comes back. Moxley using the cloverleaf, a regular of Tanahashi’s moveset, was a great touch. The match was much slower than the others on the card but not in a bad way. It built up the tension between the two combatants, with Moxley embracing his role as leaning heel in the match when the crowd began to root mostly for Tanahashi. Moxley doing the Danielson stomps to the face only for Tanahashi to return the favor was excellent. I laughed out loud when Moxley bladed after a sling blade of all moves but I appreciated the blood nonetheless. Sorry for the weak of stomach but the crimson mask on Moxley made it even cooler of a match. I feel Tanahashi and Okada are excellent at the 2.99999999 kick-out that really works the nerves into the false finishes. This is the kind of match that ages well and is more enjoyable the more times you watch it. When I finished it the second time, I immediately wanted to watch a third time. That aside, the aftermath of the match was not needed or at least done in the wrong order. Have Moxley and Tanahashi do their bows of respect that happened after the pay-per-view and then do the setup for Blood and Guts. Still it’s a five.

🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕

My First Dragonborn character in D&D 5E – Harailt Bloodcloak

Before I ever played Dungeons and Dragons I was listening to Dungeons and Dragons podcasts such as Nerd Poker, Critical Hit, and Drunks and Dragons. I didn’t start playing D&D until October 2015. It was literally the same day as my first day of therapy, something I needed but had been avoiding, that I got a text message from a friend asking “Would you be interested in playing D&D? I’m getting a group together.” It may be a bit of revisionist history on my part but I’m pretty positive I send back a resounding hell yes.

We started with the 5th Edtion Starter Set – The Lost Mine of Phandelver and the pre-made characters that came with it. I was a dwarven cleric but after our first session, I was immediately hooked. I did a deep dive online about D&D 5E and next paycheck I headed to my favorite comic shop to buy my own dice in green, my favorite color, and a copy of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook so I could make my own character, a dwarven ranger by the name of Bhruic Forgeworthy.

Then one of my players loosed an arrow at a green dragon and ended up getting the party wiped out. So, we started a new campaign, The Hoard of the Dragon Queen and so I wanted to make a new character. I had heard of Dragonborn from the Drunks and Dragons podcast with Thom the Dragonborn and to be quite honest, thought they looked cool. So they’re like humanoid Dragon people? That’s awesome! Plus I wanted to hit things so a chose barbarian. Harailt Bloodcloak was born, a silver Dragonborn Berzerker barbarian who was raised by copper Dragonborn. While they were simple farmers, Harailt began training with the greataxe until he joined a mercenary company that was slaughtered, leaving the cloak he was wearing bloody, hence the name.

Afterward, he joined the party as we headed to a burning town being besieged by Kobolds. I remember kobolds carrying something out but not noticing us. Harailt hated kobolds so naturally, I did something stupid.

“I shout out to those kobolds,” to the groan of everyone else.

“What do you say?” My DM asks. I had no idea so I said the first thing I could think of.

“Fuck off,” I shout.

“Roll for initiative.”

Harailt was brash and a loudmouth. That is as far as roleplaying him as I was good at. My greataxe was called Retort. The +1 fiery greataxe I eventually found I called Sunder. We defeated a white dragon deep within a castle of the Dragon Cultists. Then we transitioned to The Rise of Tiamat. I don’t remember it very well except for the ending. Tiamat was rising, three heads had emerged, and almost every party member was down. Harailt was the last one standing, and then he wasn’t. However, I forgot about an essential part of my level 16 barbarian, Relentless Rage

Starting at 11th level, if you are raging and you drop to 0 hit points and don’t die, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead. Each time you attempt this saving throw after the first, before completing a short rest or longrest, the DC increases by 5.

I managed it twice, passing both the DC 10 and DC 15 before Harailt was able to chop off the three emerged heads of Tiamat. I believe I still have the date saved in Google Calendar. Yes, March 16 – Harailt Bloodcloak chopped off Tiamat’s heads before she could rise.

In Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Harailt traveled with the bard Luken Songsteel, a paladin, and a rogue. In the Rise of Tiamat, he traveled with Gamdanf, the wizard who only said “I am Gamdanf,” a ranger named Frevor who at one point summoned twelve badgers to kill kobolds. Honestly, those campaigns were a bit of a blur now. I could play in those campaigns again and only have a vague recollection of what happened. There was a vampire we failed to kill. Luken Songsteel said he’d fire his rapier off his crossbow by mistake but he rolled for it and sure enough, he shot his rapier with his crossbow.

I’d probably play Harailt Bloodcloak completely different now, but I still think fondly of him looking back.

Here is his level 7 character sheet which I still have.

Harailt Bloodcloak – Barbarian

Changing The Dark Tower – The Dark Tower Movie.

Today sees the first trailer for The Dark Tower film,  directed by Nikolai Arcel with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, starring Idris Alba as Roland Deschain, the last remaining gunslinger, Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers. The film has been in development for a number of years with names like J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Ron Howard, and Javier Bardem all attached and having to drop the project at some point.

With movie adaptations come changes, and as Stephen King has said this is a direct sequel to his magnum opus so will change come to pass in this series of films. This reminds me of the series of posts I wrote airing out all the frustrations, with love, that I have with the book series. With the movie releasing in December perhaps it is time to reread the series and decide if the changes I thought of in 2015 were appropriate.

Changing to The Dark Tower – Part I – The First Three Books

Changing to The Dark Tower – Part II – Wizard & Glass

Changing The Dark Tower – Part III – Wolves of the Calla

Changing the Dark Tower – Part IV – The Song of Susannah

 Changing The Dark Tower – Part V – The Final Book & Mordred: All Hype, No Substance

“I don’t like anything here at all,” said Frodo. 

‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually –their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on –and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same –like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

The Legacy of Robb Stark.

For viewers, it has been over three years since the Red Wedding episode, “The Rains of Castamere” of Game of Thrones aired on HBO. For readers, it was the year 2000 when A Storm of Swords first came out. For me, it was 2012 that I first read the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. While many have poured over every page dissecting every word for theories on where the series will go my To-Be-Read pile has only gotten bigger keeping me away from rereading the series until recently.

Robb Stark, the eldest son of Eddard Stark, has been ever present in my mind as I reread the series. Mostly, in relation to what has happened to the North after book three / season three and what has happened to Jon Snow in season six. Spoilers ahead.

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Take Not A Slice, But The Whole Dish of Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie.

I’ve been reading the webcomic Octopus Pie from about a year into its start. Before its tenth anniversary in May of next year, the comic will be coming to an end. Part of what makes reading a webcomic (or any comic) fun and interesting from its beginning to its end is watching the changes that occur.  Not just the characters, but the change in writing and the art style. Especially with webcomics who often have one creator for both.

From when I started my blogger site, to when I created this site, and to the present day I’ve had a draft on both blogs trying to write about my love for Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie but I’ve never been able to put my finger on what it is about it that I love besides the fact it makes me smile and laugh like no other webcomic does consistently while making me care deeply for its characters.

There’s a part of it that you, the new reader, will appreciate it in a way it took a reread for me to take in. Gran’s art style and writing evolved with the changing lives of her characters. It’s not so much that the creator finds her voice as the comic goes on, but her voice changes and with it the voices of her characters. From the beginning, I felt Gran had the voice of her characters down pat, even if that may not necessarily be true.

Eve and Hanna.

 

“The stories accommodate the characters, and the characters reflect the changes in my own life.The stories accommodate the characters, and the characters reflect the changes in my own life.” – Meredith Gran, Paste Magazine




Octopus Pie is the story of Eve (Everest) Ning and Hanna Thompson living in Brooklyn in their twenties. In the second volume of the comic, “Music at Home with Octopus Pie” Gran writes about living in a commuter town on Long Island before the storyline “Exile on Jericho Turnpike.” If you’re also a New Yorker, the settings will resonate with you differently than others, but that’s how it is with a piece of fiction we admire taking place in the fictionalized version of the real area we live in and visit. Everyone thinks of New York City as their city, whether you’re from Long Island like I am, from Upstate New York or if you actually live in the city.  See, we refer to it as the city. We see Eve and Hanna in their apartment, on the subway, in the bar, in the coffee shop, in Chinatown, or in Central Park and our ability to relate and to empathize shoots up. Brooklyn is alive in every panel of Octopus Pie even when it doesn’t speak.

I want to tell you how great the art is, the way she nails facial expressions and body language that is silly one minute and deep into that drama the next. I want to tell you about the humor. All the quippy lines, observational humor, visual gags, situational comedy, and smart ass comments from her characters. What is best about Meredith Gran’s sense of comedy is that she isn’t afraid of the joke. What I mean by that, and this is part of what makes her storytelling so well done, is that every kind of joke I just mentioned come naturally to her characters. I’m not talking about to the story, but to her characters, who laugh with the reader at other characters being funny like they’re people and not part of a narrative. You don’t see being done well often. Either the artists doesn’t show their characters laughing or when they do it looks like the end of a Scooby Doo episode.

 

You put the crisp dialogue, the humor, the setting, the stories, and the art into a pie dish and you’ll still be missing the main filler that makes Octopus Pie such a delight to read. That filling is the characters. Gran writes her characters for a comic like great novels do. They all come with a history that is delved in small spoonfuls over time, often without all the details. This missing history makes her characters read like real people because there is some baggage you don’t get to learn about a person, that they don’t want to share, and that they’ve moved past it but it still remains part of this life.

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When Eve visits her family, she returns to her role as the “Big Sister.”

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“With each passing year away from home, the plight of loved one seems more urgent. Giving up on family feel reckless, persisting can seem cruel and futile.” – Meredith Grand, Listen At Home with Octopus Pie

The cast all has a family and their own unique relationship with them but those relationships are part of the background, not the main plot. It doesn’t end there, but my point is that the characters have former jobs, former dreams, former loves, and former friends that shaped who they are in the ongoing story. Like a new friend, your first impression of the characters doesn’t reveal everything about them. You get to know them, flaws and all, as you continue through the comic. Eve seems the straight-and-narrow, cynical, and sarcastic type in the beginning, struggling to deal with Hanna’s smoke-filled, carefree, non-conformist personality. Underneath, you get the feeling that Eve is lost, struggling not so much to define who she is but where her life is going like many twenty-year-olds. Her past, like the break up with first love and the divorce of her parents, is a weight she carries more than any other character. Meanwhile, Hanna, though often well intentioned, is manipulative to her friends and is constantly seeking control over herself and those around her. Her struggle comes with the loss and lack of control we often face in our twenties.

Will calls Hanna out on her controlling nature.

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Will comforts Eve overs a fallout between friends.

The strip isn’t simply about Eve and Hanna’s relationship but relationships as a whole. The empathy Gran has for all her characters comes out in every arc, on every page. She rotates the cast of characters in Eve and Hanna’s life just as relationships seem to change so rapidly in our lives during our twenties. People move, quit jobs, get new jobs, get new interests, and forge new relationships. Marek, Will, and Marigold round out the main cast of the strip each with their own arcs and lives that exist alongside Eve and Hanna, not rotating around them. Marigold and Will start out as friends of Hanna but gain larger roles and story arcs later on. Both struggle with who they are and want they want in life with different paths and approaches to how they find what they are looking for.

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My absolute favorite panel from Octopus Pie.

 

 

Almost like a role reciprocal to Hanna, Marigold constantly feels like she has no control over her life. When we meet her, she believes there is no satisfaction to be found within the system she is in, namely her job. The structure is controlling her, in her mind, not giving her a stable environment in which to find control. She sees Hanna, who has an independent business, as the friend who has both freedom and control, two things she feels she has neither of. Meanwhile, Will is looking for simplicity and structure in his complicated life. He forces a half-assed structure to his lifestyle without ever committing to what he truly wants, something Hanna points out Eve tends to do the same.

 

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Hanna knows Will very well.

 

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Will is afraid of change.

 

Marek knows exactly who he is, or believes he does. His inner conflict is hidden behind a curtain of desperately trying to get through college. When we see him stressed early in the comic it’s because of deadlines. We often see Marek, if not with Hanna, through Eve’s eyes. From there he seems to be the wise one among them with the most insight but Marek is not without his own problems that may not appear onscreen. The reason for this is Marek, as opposed to a lot of the other characters, knows what he wants, knows what he believes, and knows where he wants to go in life. This leads to future conflict with Hanna because they don’t necessarily want the same thing.

 

Wise words from Marek.

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No one has it all figured out.

Change is the great conflict for the characters of Octopus Pie. Their individual lives are changing, their jobs are changing, the people around them are changing, and their relationships are changing. With change comes great joy and great pain, all the while laughter will come in between. Meredith Gran quickly found her tone and interweaves it well. She knows when her readers need a break from the conflicts with her brand of smart observational humor and silliness that can only be pulled off in comic form.

 

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Eve dealing with her inner demons and catcalling on a regular basis.

 

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Eve dealing with life.

 

 

This is what compels me to read it, and why you should read it as well. The changes come quick, and you’ll ask yourself but why does it have to change? You’ll move past the empathetic pain you feel for Eve, Hanna, Eve, Will, or Marigold and you’ll ask what happens next?

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I do have my own Nintendo and very creative thoughts.

 

The Author: Meredith Gran.

Meredith Gran makes comics and teaches at the School of Visual Arts. She lives in Brooklyn and has tried every vegan cheese, even the good ones.

All images are property of Meredith Gran. Read more Octopus Pie online at: Octopuspie.com

The current volumes of Octopus Pie are released by Image Comics. Find them in your local comic book store, book store, or online retailer.

You can find Octopus Pie merchandise at Topataco

One Word After Another: Wonder Woman, Fantasy, D&D, Game of Thrones S6.

My draft section on this blog has become mighty daunting. The problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, but it never felt like enough to fill how long I expect a post to be. So I decided to title this amalgamation of posts into posts called “One Word After Another” named after this Neil Gaiman quote:

“The process of writing can be magical. There are times when you step out of a upper floor window and you just walk across thin air and it’s absolute nutter happiness. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another. The process of writing can be magical. There are times when you step out of a upper floor window and you just walk across thin air and it’s absolute nutter happiness. Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” – Neil Gaiman, Nerdist Podcast.

I believe in my archives I titled posts of random links the same, but this is not the same.

Since my last post, Wonder Woman has premiered in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman Rebirth began with Greg Rucka back on writing duties, the trailer for Wonder Woman’s solo movie came out, a trailer of Justice League Action premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, and I read The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

I believe, thanks to my love of fantasy and my continuing adventuring playing and DMing Dungeons and Dragons, Wonder Woman has risen to #1 status as my favorite member of DC Comics’ Trinity. Don’t get me wrong, Green Lanter and the Flash can always count on me to have their back, and have no love loss for Bats and Supey but the ways of Wonder Woman have  swayed me. A complex female character taking on Greek gods and monsters balanced by her stranger in a strange land story is very appealing to me. In my head, she balances a lot of the qualities that I’ve always loved about Superman and Batman while also bringing new ideas to the table. Ideas of that delve into whether can be both the peacemaker and the warrior.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman‘s title, by Jill Lepore, should come with a caveat or written beneath in small letters it could say “‘s Creator,” since this book is barely about Wonder Woman but mostly about William Moulton Marston.  The question one is left after reading this book is what to think of her creator. Is he a con artist, by manipulating his students , his mistress, and his colleagues to boost his respect / standing in the academic community? I mean, at one point there is no denying he is a fraud with what he tries to pull with Gillette Razors and his Lie Detector test. Is he a feminist, an advocate for the women’s movement or is he a hypocrite for his lifestyle of a patriarchal figure to two women fathering children with both Olivia Byrne and Zadie Holloway plus a third woman involved.

The author does an excellent job balancing Marston’s good traits with his bad subjectively, not by offering her own opinion on the creator of Wonder Woman. At some points, Marston sounds like a strong advocate for women’s rights, and at others, he sounds like he’d prefer a harem of women if he were allowed. Question: How many women must there be to be considered a harem? Is three enough? In general, it isn’t a good sign when Joye Hummel is introduced as his co-writer for Diana and I wondered whether she was going to be Marston’s next mistress. However, the author made me admire Marston’s strong will to defend Wonder Woman’s agency, the agency of women in general, and the kink community that in his day-and-age was seen as a perversion. That be said, when I really thought about W.H. Marston I believe if I knew the man in real life his arrogance mixed with denial would make me want to punch him in the face.

Dungeons & Dragons have made me appreciate writers with a deadline and improvisers. Every week I’m left trying to write what’ll happen next in the campaign on a framework of a story that does not have enough time for a second draft. There are no second drafts of a campaign when you write while you’re playing each week nor if you did would it necessarily work. A common saying I hear from Dungeon Masters is “any preparation you make is destroyed upon contact with players.” It would be so easy for me to railroad my player characters but I want them to choose and sometimes that leads me down a road of making it up on the spot. Sometimes adding information to the canon of my world that I’m furiously writing down less I forget. It’s not easy, and I learned from reading The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney that this disconnect I feel between my thoughts and the words I speak versus the words I write is normal but sometimes it gets in the way when I am telling my story.

Rereading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin I am blown away by this book even more than I was the first time. It has been since 2012 since I read it, before season 2 of the show ever came out, and boy, it makes the show look bad in comparison. It isn’t the show’s fault, though, I have come to realize again, but the fault of the basic principals and foundation of creating a television show. There is all these little details missing from the show that makes it seem like the Sparknotes version of the books but that is because there are very real limitations. The show can only be so long, they can only spend so much money, they can only include so many characters, they can only hire so many actors, they only have so much time to fill it. The other problem is, the little changes in the show that seem idiotic, is due to this prevailing nature in films and television that pisses me off to no end. This idea that television and movie audiences are stupid, every little thing has to be explained (especially when it comes to magic), and nothing can be confusing for any single member of the audience in order to read a wider audience. That’s why Tyrion’s wife was cut from the show, it’s why Hodor’s real name isn’t Walder but Willis, and why Asha is now Yara because that’s too close to Osha. There is subtly to the books the show lacks, and it loses some of its sparkles because of that. After watching season six of the show I am even more excited to get my hands on The Winds of Winter because they built a pyre around subtly and burned it to the ground. All this being said, what kind of idiot reads A Dance with Dragons and goes “Hey, you know what part would be really cool to add to our show? The horrific rape scene! *Writer’s room cheering:* YEAH!” Real bad, fellas.

In two weeks time, I’ll be done proofreading my novel, having finished editing the story back in April. So far, the beta readers I’ve sent it out to have sent some very kind things. I’ll have to remember them when the rejection letter begins coming in when I send it out to literary agents.

You Should Read: A Crown of Cold Silver by Alex Marshall, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

You Should Listen To: The British History Podcast, The Adventure Zone, Drunks and Dragons Podcast, My Brother, My Brother, & Me Podcast.

 

 

After Zelda, Superheroes Were My Gateway To Fantasy.

After the news of celebrated writer and artist Darwyn Cooke’s passing, I picked my copy of Absolute DC: New Frontier and absorbed Cooke’s love letter to the Silver Age of the DC Universe.

It’s massive scale and the enormous cast of diverse characters combined with the lingering thoughts about Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World reminded me that after The Legend of Zelda it was superhero comics that opened the gateway for my love for fantasy.

The similarities between the two are surprisingly plentiful. Just to name a few:

  • Garish costumes.
  • Systems of magic.
  • Unusual names and codenames.
  • The use of symbology.
  • Enhanced or enchanted armor, weapons, and items.
  • Prophecy and legends influencing the protagonists.
  • History, mythology, and continuity that dates back before a current story but has a lingering effect.
  • Multi-faceted heroes and villains that walk the moral line.
  • Archetypal heroes and villains that serve as both characters and symbols for their cause.
  • Conflicts on the micro scale within close knits groups,
  • Macro scale conflicts that put universes in jeopardy,
  • and those in-group conflicts affecting the chance of success of resolving those universal threats.
  • War: The consequences of war, the threat of war, and the aftermath of war.
  • Death: Heroes, villains, love interests, and side characters all dying and in some cases, coming back.

Superhero comics do have the advantage of being broad enough in storytelling that it can encompass many genres including fantasy. A majority of DC’s magic users, including Etrigan, John Constantine, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Alan Scott, and oh, I don’t know, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman all either dip their toes or fully submerge themselves into fantasy.

What it comes down to is world building. If you can understand the chaos that is the worlds of Marvel and DC then remembering the houses on Game of Thrones isn’t that difficult. What’s different is that for Marvel and DC the rules are always changing. What most fantasy tends to do is either established the rules early on or establish the rules and break them early on to create conflict. This is because eventually those fantasy stories are going to end. Comic book companies are in the business of keeping their stories running for as long as they sell. Thus their characters have to change overtime but not necessarily evolve.

Plus, most series of fantasy novels are written by one creator while superhero comics is a ever-spinning turnstile of different writers and artists. Their environment, purpose, supporting cast, powers, appearance, and even their history could change from one writer to another. Elements that stem from roots in fantasy could not longer be in fashion. Now, their powers, equipment, cast, or origin may not be science fiction in nature.

This can be frustrating to the reader which could not be more apparent with the recent developments in [spoilers] DC Universe Rebirth and the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers. Change is acceptable in a fantasy novel, especially a series with no previous history (real world history that is) but not so with most superhero comics considering their long history dating back to World War II. Even new superheroes have this struggle because by the time you establish a new character in an ongoing over a certain amount of issues any change you make is going to met with resistance from your readers.

That and the price is why I made the jump. I was frustrated by bad writing of characters I loved and the ever increasing price of comics versus the price of books made the switch easy. Fantasy novels have stayed relatively the same price, they have a more complete story, no other bad writer is coming in and fucking up what the good writer has done, there are no editorial mandates to fit within a big event happening in another series, and  the story is self-contained.

Still, I may never hace found fantasy without superhero comics.

“The Wheel of Time is too daunting,” says Tolkienist. “Wait, what?” Everyone else asks.

Recently, I finished reading The Eye of the World, the first novel in Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic The Wheel of Time. It the first of fourteen novels and quite frankly, it is a bit intimidating. This is coming from someone who has a studied the Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and other collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing on a scholarly level, for fun.

The Wheel of Time seems daunting in the same style that Frank Herbert’s Dune is daunting. The difference being I already decided in my mind when I read Dune that I would go no further than the first book. You don’t have that option with The Wheel of Time. Like Dune, the writing style is long-winded but Jordan, like Herbert and Tolkien, cares about his words being mot juste.

However, this makes for a slow read. A fantasy novel, usually a long read by itself, will take me about two weeks to read. The first Wheel of Time novel has taken me a month to get through. It’s a slog, which usually has a negative connotation, but somehow it’s a good slog? A lot of backstory and history is given in this first book which usually would be perfect for a reader like me, who loves exposition, but by the end of the novel, it was hard to stay focused.

It’s funny, for such well-known fantasy series it is surprising how little I knew about it. Even A Song of Ice and Fire was spoiled for me (The Red Wedding) before I ever finished the second book. With The Wheel of Time, however, I’ve never heard of a single character or setting. Not Rand Al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, or Perrin Ayabard nor Tar Valon, Emond’s Field, or Caemlyn.

When I say the series may be too daunting for me this isn’t a criticism of the books nor does it mean that I won’t continue reading. What I mean is that it’s going to take me a long time to read and truly appreciate the series. As a child, doctors told my mother that I had attention deficit disorder. In school, I could not sit still. At parties, I would run into walls. To fight this, my parents removed all artificial flavors and coloring from my diet rather than putting me on a prescription drug like Ritalin. Now, I struggle to fight distractions when writing and have difficulty staying focused if I read a two books of a series in a row.

I could read each book in the series one after another, but not only would it take longer than if I read other books in between but the series would become a burden rather than what I would do for enjoyment. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Great Hunt, after I’ve read two or three other books in between. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read The Lord of the Rings for the twelfth time in ten years.