Tagged: Peter Capaldi

Tweeks Draw 2014

DrawOurYearThumbWe seemed to watch a lot of “Draw My Life” videos this past year, so we felt it was appropriate to recap our 2014 with a white board and some dry erase markers. In under 3 minutes, we quickly doodle this year’s top movies, tv shows, books & comics.  We also draw our favorite Con experiences, the pop culture headlines that stuck with us, and the best hair of the year (belonging to Blythe from IDW’s Littlest Pet Shop Comics)!   Lots of wishes for a fabulous 2015, everyone!

Mindy Newell’s Year-End Bests And Worsts

So here we are at the end of 2014, which is the time for media folk to opine about the best and the worst of the year in all the different areas of our overcrowded, put-upon lives. So though I rarely think of myself as part of the media folk crowd, I’ll include me in that description for this column, since all of you have so kindly considered my words, thoughts, judgments, attitudes, and so forth important enough to peruse over the last twelve months.

So here we go, in no particular order, and not divided into “best” and “worst”…

I applaud Marvel Comics’ writer G. Willow Wilson (great name, by the way, so alliterative!) and artist Adrian Alphona for introducing the comics world to Kamala Khan, an American Muslim teenager from Jersey City, New Jersey. Kamala’s parents and family are traditional, observant Muslims (for the most part), but Kamala just wants to be what every teenage girl wants to be – not different from her peers. But she is. Not just because she’s Muslim. It’s because she’s also Ms. Marvel.

In a time when bigotry is rampant in these United States – our President is a Muslim Kenyan socialist dictator terrorist determined to destroy America, and, oh, by the way, he’s *gasp* B-L-A-C-K – I just absolutely love that the House of Ideas has embraced the opposite of the disease named xenophobia. There is no better cure.

Just a few weeks ago at my daughter’s birthday dinner, we got into a discussion of the state of music these days. I said that I think there is nothing out there that can compare to the music produced during the ‘60s, certainly nothing like the great concept albums of the Beatles, the Stones, and so forth. Not for the mass public, anyway. It’s all manufactured pop crap. Certainly nothing that is going to hold up to the test of time. Said brother Glenn, “So where do you think great popular art is being produced?”

“Television,” I said instantly. “We in a new ‘Golden Age.”

“When she’s right, she’s right,” said Glenn.

There’s been a lot of really fantastic television these days. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Outlander, and certainly comics are rocking our personal screens with The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But my vote for the best TV show of 2014 – as if regular readers can’t guess before I type out the letters – is Homeland.

Homeland not only made everyone forget – well, sort of – Brody (for more see my earlier column on the series here), but it amped up the tension to equal the heyday of 24 – and beat Jack Bauer at his own game by never forgetting that it is also a study of the emotional, and psychological scars borne by those who serve their patriotism in the coldest of wars.

Best taking on of a role already inhabited by fan favorites: Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord in Doctor Who. David Tennant and Matt Smith made indelible marks on the saga of the Gallifreyan, between them raising the Doctor into the realms of a worldwide phenomenon shared by only two modern myths – Star Trek and Star Wars. I can well imagine the trepidation with which Mr. Capaldi must have felt when he was given the keys to the TARDIS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t slept the night before the his debut premiered. But he made it his own; an original interpretation in which, im-not-so-ho, the Doctor had to figure out if, of if not, he’s a good man. “I don’t know,” said Clara. And I’m still not sure if the Doctor can accept that maybe he is, even if he did, at long last, salute Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

Politics and World Affairs 101. (Hey, you know me – I wasn’t going to let this topic slip away.) This year was definitely one that went way beyond any introductory college course. The most “do-nothing” Congress in the history of this country, all based – again, im-not-so-ho, on the biases held against our President. (Reference first sentence in fourth paragraph of this column, please.) ISIS, jihadist Crusaders determined to raise the Ottoman Empire from the dust of history using beheadings with modern-day scimitars and social media propaganda, is the biggest threat to any type of peace in the Middle East – and the world – since Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party. And yes, that is really how I feel.

Meanwhile Vladimir Putin seems determined to lead a new Soviet Union – and for those who may point out that the Russian economy is in freefall…well, countries have gone to war because of failed domestic policies. And homosexuals in Russia are the new scapegoat, replacing Jews.

Best (and worst) on the domestic front this year. It seems to me that the American people have finally woken up and are marching in protest again against our own “black boots” (not to reference Nazis again, but…) who – shades of the pre-Civil Rights Act era – seem to feel they have a right to kill black men and anyone else who doesn’t “salute” them fast enough. I only hope the protests continue to the level of the social activism in which I grew up during the ‘60’s, and now dwindle away like the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Worst “Oh, God, I knew this was going to happen” moment: “The Mystery of Malaysian Flight 370” was televised on CNN. Just waiting for it to show up as an episode of “Ancient Aliens” sometime in 2015.

Dumbest comics controversy of 2014 (though I can understand the uproar) was that cover. Yeah, you know the one I mean. Jessica Jones as Spider-Woman with her ass up in the air.

The other dumb comics controversy – the stupidest, I mean – was DC’s decision not to allow Batwoman to marry her long-time love, civil rights lawyer Maggie Sawyer. Not only does it reek of bigotry and ignorance, not only does it go against the biggest non-issue in recent American history, i.e., gay marriage, but it’s based on an edict that “no DC superhero is allowed to be married” as “heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives” because it would make for “less dramatic stories.” As if marriage is always a state of bliss. Um…no. And kudos to J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman for walking away from such ignoramity.

Most exposed comic character: Starfire. Once upon a time, back in the Wolfman-Pérez days of New Teen Titans, she was a nuanced character. Now she’s just…exposed.

Speaking of DC and stupidest. How about their contest concerning Harley Quinn? the company asked for tyro artists to draw a scene from Harley Quinn #0 which specifically asked for: “Harley sitting in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances, all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before her inevitable death. Her expression is one of, ‘Oh, well, I guess that’s it for me,’ and she has resigned herself to the moment is going to happen.”

Announced just before National Suicide Prevention Week.

Oh, wait, a lot of that happened in 2013.

Well, it’s still “worst of” bad news.

So what kind of stupidest stuff has DC done in 2014?

Turned Wonder Woman into a caricature of a feminist icon – whiney, spoiled, and bitchy.

Batgirl featured a literal “cartoon” of transgender characterization in the imposter Batgirl, who was actually a dangerous, deranged man. Um, btw, that’s not transgender. That’s cross-dressing. Either way, it was incredibly insulting to too many individuals. (The creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr apologized…and meant it.).

Merchandizing sexualized and insulting t-shirts with Superman “scoring” with Wonder Woman, and mottos like “Training To Be Batman’s Wife.”

Releasing a book for toddlers and early readers called “Superheroes Opposites” in which “Wonder Woman pushes a swing” with a little girl on it, while Superman, on the opposing page, “pulls the machine,” which looks like some combination of a Deere tractor and deep-sea oilrig. Anyway, it’s enormous and definitely very heavy. Yeah, I’ll be buying that book for my 15-month-old grandson soon.

DC sure isn’t Jenette Khan’s company anymore!

But DC didn’t just become the leading anti-feminist comics company in 2014. I found this at www.Whatculture.com:

2014 also saw DC leaning on some wonderfully old-school gimmicks to try and boost sales, including falling back into the nineties speculator boom trope of providing shiny covers to try and entice people into buying flagging books. They planned to provide 3D variant covers for climactic final issues of their year-long crossover event Future’s End, a process which apparently requires certain special chemicals.

One of which is called microcystin, and is highly toxic. Exactly the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to, say, get into a municipal water supply.” Woops, that’s exactly what happened though! Some sort of spill at the printing plant where the books were being published caused the deadly toxin to end up in Lake Eerie, which provides the water supply of eleven million coastal inhabitants in Northwestern Ohio.

Yes, DC poisoned the water supply of eleven million people. Lex Luthor would be proud.”

Okay, I’m sure DC comics weren’t the only books being published at the printing plant. But I just have three things to say:

How come stuff like this doesn’t happen at Marvel?

And, at least based on this list of “worsts,” I don’t think I’ll be working for DC anytime soon.

And, based on this list of “worsts,” I’m not sure I would want to.


John Ostrander: Odder Ends 2014

This week I’ve got a bunch of different topics and themes but none of them seem to be developing into a coherent column. So I think I’ll take parts of all of them and just stitch together into a hodgepodge column. It’s the end of the year so maybe I can get away with it.

If you’re doing a SF tent pole movie, you want to hire Zoe Saldana and use her prominently. She played Neytiri in Avatar, Uhura in the two latest Star Trek films, and Gamora in Guardians Of The Galaxy and she’s going to be in the next installments of all these films. They all made what is technically called a shitload of money. Coincidence? I think not. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if she shouldn’t be cast as Amanda Waller. (Sorry, Oprah.) I really want the upcoming Suicide Squad movie to sell like hotcakes and spawn sequels and Amanda Waller related merchandise. Okay, I’m crass. Still, think about it. . .

Peter Capaldi has finished his first season as the new Doctor and I like his Doctor McCrankypants. It’s a nice variation of the past few Doctors. Not as crazy about all the writing, tho, and I really am beginning to feel it’s time for showrunner Steven Moffat to move on. When Moffat is good, he’s really good and he’s rarely outright bad but he’s often becoming mediocre. He seems, to me, to not always think things through. Or he gets clever for the sake of being clever.

Best Animated Film I Saw This Year – How To Train Your Dragon 2. The animation was better than the original and the story wasn’t a re-hash of the first but actually advanced the characters. It was fun but also had real emotional depth and impact. In fact, it was a better film than many live action serious movies I saw. It took chances.

Best Marvel Film I Saw This Year – a lot of people would say Guardians Of The Galaxy and I loved it too. It was just wonderfully entertaining. However, I liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier even more. Chris Evans is to Steve Rogers/Captain America what Christopher Reeve was to Superman. Why doesn’t Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow have her own movie? How the hell did they get Robert Redford go play the main villain? (Oh, right – money.) And Samuel L. Jackson just has deep reserves of cool to call on. The movie also had a major impact on Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. which was an added bonus.

Just finished reading Alexander Mcall Smith’s latest installment (number 15!) in his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, titled The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café. The series is set in Botswana, Africa, and features Precious Ramotswe, her partner Grace Makutsi, and their friends, co-workers, and clients in and around the city of Gabrone. The characters are all African and the author is white, born in Rhodesia, now living in Scotland. He writes the characters with great love and understanding, along with a great love for Africa in general and Botswana in particular. Reading each new book is like visiting old friends. The mysteries are mostly small matters and not really the focus of the series. It is the people. I recommend the series and, while I suggest starting at he beginning, each book is admirably written to be accessible even if you haven’t read the others. I will warn you that they are quiet books, slow paced, but wonderful reads.

Final note: just an update since so many of you expressed concern following my recent triple bypass. I’m healing nicely and recovering well. My general practitioner, on my last visit, pronounced me “medically boring.” I’ve never been so glad to be called boring.

Well, that’s 2014. Drive carefully, drink responsibly, party carefully, and we’ll all reconvene in 2015.

Happy New Year, y’all!


New Who Review – “Last Christmas”

This day has been an emotional rollercoaster.

The facts and details of the Christmas episode have been kept strictly secret, and for good reason.  Rumors flew that Jenna Coleman was leaving the series just as the new season was a-borning, and her go-to answer for the events of the special was “If you know if I’m staying with the series, it’ll ruin the ending”.  A spectacularly surprising cameo, a hilarious guest star, and a plot that keeps unfolding like a fried onion makes for a ripping yarn for the holiday.  But for most of the year, we were never sure or not if this was to be Clara’s…

By  Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

Clara and The Doctor team up again after Santa crashes on her roof. You heard me – Sweet Papa Chrimbo himself appears atop Clara’s home, and before any sense can be made of that, The Doctor reappears and snatches her away.  They arrive at a mysterious science base where the scientists are combating Dream Crabs, an alien species that lull their victims into a peaceful dream-state while they quietly eat their brains.  Clara is attacked by one, and “awakens” at home on Christmas morning, met by Danny Pink, inexplicably hale and hearty.  It’s only when she properly awakens does she, The Doctor, and the scientists realize that they may well be all still asleep.  Oh, and Santa Claus keeps appearing to help.

Moffat took full advantage of the rumors surrounding Jenna Coleman’s status on the show to deliver a series of heart-gripping false moves that left the viewer exhausted, but fully entertained.  Moffat has always been good at creating characters that you immediately feel for, and this is no exception.  Even when it’s eventually revealed that we actually knew nothing about the people, we’re happy to see them survive.

THE MONSTER FILES –  The Dream Crabs are based on a very common concept, the idea of dreams being used to cloak a slow death.  Comics fans will likely already thought of the Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, which featured Mongul using an alien plant called a Black Mercy to place Superman in a dream state where he believes he had grown up on Krypton with his loving family.  It was even adapted into an episode of Justice League Unlimited, adapted by J. M. DeMatteis.

Fans of Red Dwarf will also recall the despair squid, a being that takes the opposite tack – inducing dreams to make its victims despair, causing them to take their own lives in the dream.  The female of said species follows more the standard trope, causing a happy dream from which the victim(s) from which would be loath to awaken. The Dream Lord tried the same thing in Amy’s Choice –  Heck, you could even argue that the Master’s plan with the Nethersphere was the same scheme – a artificial reality to keep the victims placated and off-balance until they were needed.  Moffat takes a page from Inception as well, folding in the idea of multi-layered dreams, resulting in never being sure if they were truly awake.


Nick Frost (Santa) is best know in the US for his frequent collaborations with fellow Who-lumnus Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright.  But he’s got a long list of solo projects in the UK as well.  He starred in the Sci-Fi comedy Hyperdrive, which also starred Kevin Eldon and the delightful and huge Miranda Hart. He hosted a mock “worst case scenario” style show called DANGER! 50,000 Volts! and worked with Daisy Haggard (Sophie from The Lodger and Closing Time) on the sketch show Man Stroke Woman.

Michael Troughton (Professor Albert) is the son of Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor.  He has quite a respectable acting career in his own right, including a regular role on Rik Mayall’s The New Statesman.  He took several years off from acting to care for his ailing wife, who passed away recently.  This episode is the second acting role he’s taken in his return to the boards.  He and his father are far from the only actors in the family. His brother David played King Peladon in the classic series Pertwee adventure The Monster of Peladon, and Professor Hobbs in Tennant’s Midnight. His nephew, Harry Melling, played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films.

Dan Starkey (Ian) is well known to Who-fen as Strax the Sontaran, not to mention practically every Sontaran to appear in the last few years of the show.  They chose to have him play an elf in this episode because as Moffat explains in a recent interview, “we thought it would be nice for him not to have to wear so much rubber. And I’m talking about his professional rubber not his personal life”.  

Natalie Gumede (Ashley Carter) is known in England for an extended run on Coronation Street, and is currently starring in a web comedy called Sally the Life Coach. Her biggest mass media appearance was a tie for second-place showing in Strictly Come Dancing, the original British version of what came over here as Dancing with the Stars.


SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO – Apparently Jenna Coleman did initially plan to leave the show at the end of the season – the original ending of the special was for Clara to really be 80-odd years old, and would die in bed after a long-awaited reunion with The Doctor.  She had a change of heart (much like Clara did mid-season) and the ending was hastily amended.  It’s one of the few times where “it was all a dream” was a perfectly logical progression of the story, and not merely a desperate hat-pull.

DWNobodySET PIECES – The unnamed planet upon which The Doctor was attacked by the Dream Crabs looked remarkably similar to the planet that Clara attempted to threaten him into saving Danny in Death in Heaven.  That that version of that world was also only a dream only makes it more fitting that the same set be used again when it isn’t…IF it isn’t/

“It’s time to start living in the real world” – It’s always fun when one of the first things said in an episode turns out to be the solution all along, and you never notice. See also Clara’s line shortly after re-entering the TARDIS, “This is real, yeah?”

“Clara Oswald…mostly favors travel books” – When we first meet (this) Clara in The Bells of St. John, her room is filled with travel books, starting with the one she got from her mom.

“Don’t think about them…don’t look at them” – Once again, Moffat takes a commonplace thing and makes it scary.  The old joke “try not to think about a tap-dancing elephant” comes to mind here – it’s almost impossible NOT to think of something once it’s been brought to your attention.  Trying to keep your mind blank was also touched on in Time Heist as well as a way to stay clear of The Teller.

“They can only see you if you see them” – The idea of a being that hacks into your senses to get a look at where they are is a neat idea, but I couldn’t keep from thinking of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, “a mind-bogglingly stupid beast; it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you” from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“Three hundred and four minus seventeen” – The Doctor would often start asking his Companion maths questions as a method of getting them to concentrate, and keep from being distracted by the wild situations they were in.  He once asked Sarah Jane Smith to recite the alphabet backwards.

“It’s Christmas Eve ; early to bed” – Santa speaks to the Sleepers like children, a trick that that worked very well for The Doctor in The Doctor Dances, written by…Steven Moffat!

“It’s a long story” is right up there with “I’ll explain later” as a standard hand-wave to get past having to provide a large amount of exposition to cover a point that really doesn’t need explaining.  Moffat simply uses the cliché as an actual plot point, confounding expectations.

“That’s a bit rude, coming from a magician” – Moffat does love his callbacks.  That’s a reference from Time Heist, where The Doctor says his new look “was trying for minimalist, but ended up with magician”.

“They’re a bit like face-huggers, aren’t they?” – Professor Albert points out the similarity to the egg-laying form of the Xenomorph from Alien, but did you notice that when Shona awakens at home, one of the things on her Christmas To Do list was to watch not only Alien, but The Thing from Another World?

“Four manuals” – In yet another example of the “dream trap” genre, Batman is trapped in an electronic dream by the Mad Hatter in Perchance to Dream.  Books play a role in his realization of his predicament – Dreams are generated in another part of the brain than the ability to read, so when Bruce opens a book, it’s filled with illegible gibberish.

DWFeels1“Time travel is always possible…in dreams” – It’s the method Madame Vastra used to have a quorum across several centuries, with one person that was already dead, albeit electronically saved, in The Name of the Doctor.

“About sixty-two years” – The Doctor has shown up late for more than a few of his friends.  He was too late to see the Madame du Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace and he missed The Brigadier.

“I travelled” – This may be the closest we’ll see to a clean break between The Doctor and Clara, and it’s a good look at how being a Companion changes people. After only dreaming about seeing the world as a younger girl, she up and did it in this dream-version of her time after The Doctor.

Also note that When The Doctor has to help Clara pop the cracker, it’s a mirror of Clara having to help her Grandmother pop the poem-filled cracker in The Time of the Doctor.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – This is a very unique scenario, in that we actually DO know what’s up next time.  If only to drive home the fact that Clara (and through her, Ms. Coleman) was staying, they’ve actually given us the title of next season’s first episode – The Magician’s Apprentice. Whether that’s yet another reference to The Doctor’s new look is something we can only guess.

Jenna Coleman has been confirmed for the full series, and Peter Capaldi for the next two, so we’re in a position where we don’t have to worry about anyone leaving for at least a little while. But I must admit, as well as Jenna and Peter work together, I don’t know if the ending of Death in Heaven wasn’t the right “out”. A bittersweet ending that left both characters sad at their parting, but both feeling that they’d done something good for the other, to let them move on with their lives. Much as with  Amy and Rory’s first farewell at the end of The God Complex, everybody lives.  But Steven had to bring them back that last half-season and give them a more dramatic and sad finish (for The Doctor, anyway), not to mention more final departure.  Not to mention that to a degree, Clara has lost a bit of her independence – the overly emotional realization of how much she’s missed the sound of the TARDIS, and yet another overly sappy statement of what she thinks of The Doctor.

When we call back to the description of wanting to keep traveling as an “addiction” – even though she was allegedly asking it about The Doctor, it’s clearly a question that could be asked to, and about Clara.  I can but hope that come the end of next series, we aren’t debating whether Clara overstayed her welcome.

Marc Alan Fishman: What I’m Thankful For, 2014 Edition

Much like several of my mates here on the ‘Mix, I hit the wall of inspiration. What fell off the top of that wall? Seasonally appropriate random thoughts! So, without further adieu, allow me to waste a bit of your time with all the things I’m thankful for this year!

The Unshaven Comics Fanbase

OK, I know. Pander much, Fishface? Well, suck it, haters. At the top of my comic-centric list of things I’m thankful for are the group of folks who have chosen to flock to my li’l studio make every line I draw worth making. I’ve said it before, and Rao knows I’ll say it again: when a complete stranger is willing to stop and listen to your pitch and see your product and proclaim a positive retort as to the quality of the story and/or visuals, well then, there is little else professionally I find more invigorating. Behind many of those tables in Artist Alley lay men and women still a little bit scared no one will appreciate their wares. And to see that over the last six years or so we’ve raised a small group of loyal fans across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and over to New York? Well, it means I have plenty of reasons to be glad I spend as much time as I do at the drawing board (er… computer).

Comic Books on TV

How could I not be thankful that my DVR now overflows with the highest quality comic book adaptations on the small(er) screen? They’re not perfect, but Gotham, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and their brethren are delivering far beyond my expectations. Back in the spring when the words “Hail Hydra” were whispered on air, my jaw dropped. Suddenly a decent show became appointment-worthy. And with a few shifts in the team dynamics, some more intrigue, and a little bit o’ Patton, the show continues to be a fancy feast of Marvelous content whilst we wait for the next blockbuster (put a pin in that). Over on the DC side, it’s hard not to smile and geek out over this current iteration of the scarlet speedster. Sure, there’s some similar team-building and freak-of-the-week tropes that were trotted out on the progenitor Arrow, but it was clear from even the pilot that this show was doing it’s damnedest to do it right. And here, almost half a dozen episodes in, and I’m excited to see where The Flash will run to when it’s running at full speed. Natch. Suffice to say, I could go on, but I think it’d be better if I finally type those words Mike Gold was afraid I’d belch out a few months prior:

It’s equally a shame and wonderful when the comic books on TV are higher quality than the ones on the shelf. And for that hypocrisy, I’m very thankful.

The Movies

Good lord. The Winter Soldier. Days of Future Past. Guardians of the Galaxy. And, heck, Big Hero Six. What more can I say, that hasn’t already been said? How about this: Thank you, Universe*.

* 616, for those who want to be completest. Prove me wrong in 2015, Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Angst.

Giving Up Printed Comics from the Big Two

After my beloved piece from a few weeks back (I mean seriously, it got over 50 likes, kiddos!), I think I made my case for why I’m done with DC and Marvel’s printed fare for the time being. As much as I want to like both of them, frankly, they’ve become too predictable, too bloated, and to prone to too-predictable-too-bloated epic crossovers that I have to read. Well? I’m damn thankful that I don’t have to, and I choose instead to spend my shekels on Image, Boom!, Avatar, and the independent comic book creators who choose to push the boundaries of the medium we all love… and love to criticize.

Not Running Afoul of Michael Davis

I mean seriously, do you read his column? That dude can seek justice, retribution, and vengeance all before breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to when Unshaven Comics gets out to the San Diego Comic Con so we can see the Black Panel for ourselves… and inevitably say something wrong. It’s gonna happen. But for now, I’m totally in the clear. Except I stopped writing reviews for MichaelDavisWorld this year, and uhh… is it too late to take this back? Screw it. Lean into wave, my pappy used to say.

Doctor Who

I’m still super duper behind, kiddos. But rest assured, it only took four episodes of Series 8 to assure me two things: Peter Capaldi is my Doctor, and I really do like Doctor Who. I won’t lie. I watched every episode of House so many times I truly wanted the universe to give me Doctor House. Capaldi is as close as I’m gonna get to that, and it’s enough to make me excited to dive into the remaining episodes buried away before the Christmas Special I’m told I’ll need to see. No humbugs needed.

A Bright Present… A Brighter Future

There was so much good in 2014, for us nerds. But the biggest thing I’m most thankful for is that if you’ve read this far? You know that there’s so much more on the horizon. Marvel will continue to dominate the box office. DC will attempt to compete (and competition breeds better products). Once the epic-crossovers are done doing whatever they are doing? The Big Two might even return to telling good stories confined to single books that don’t feel compelled to be unnecessarily gritty, grim, or modern for the sake of a quick sale. OK, that might be a little too optimistic, but I’m in a good mood. Beyond that, I know Unshaven Comics will be launching a major kickstarter when our first graphic novel is complete, and with that will come a new set of problems, solutions, and ultimately fans. It brings everything back full circle, don’t it? Don’t it?

It does. Happy Turkey Day, ComicMixers.


John Ostrander: Doctor McCrankypants

SPOILER ALERT: This week’s topic is Doctor Who. If you don’t watch the show, you probably won’t like the column. Also, if you’re saving this season to binge watch and haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, there may be some spoilers. Fair warning.

We’re several weeks now into the new season of Doctor Who featuring the latest incarnation of the Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. While our own Vinnie Bartilucci has been doing splendid recaps/reviews here on ComicMix, I’d like to look at Capaldi’s Doctor overall and weigh in.

He’s not like the past several incarnations. Capaldi said he wanted his Doctor to be more of an alien and he’s succeeded. This Doctor also has something of an empathy problem and his social skills are rather lacking. David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, was famous for telling people, “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.” Especially when something terrible was going to happen or did happen to them that he couldn’t prevent. I can’t imagine those words even occurring to Capaldi’s incarnation.

However, what distinguishes this Doctor most to me is – he’s cranky. He’s Doctor McCrankypants.

Start with the eyes. Our first glimpse of him showed an almost angry glare and fierce, fierce eyebrows. He scowls more than he smiles. Suffer fools gladly? This Doctor doesn’t suffer them at all. He doesn’t like being hugged and, when his companion insisted, did it very awkwardly. He almost looked as if he was in pain.

He is ruthlessly pragmatic. On “Mummy on the Orient Express,” the mummy appears only to those it is about to kill. They have 66 seconds to live. The Doctor insistently pumps one of the victims before their death for a description and any other information in an effort to learn what they are dealing with. He knows there is no chance of saving the terrified man and doesn’t try.

In the first of the new episodes, the Doctor and his companion, Clara, are fleeing automatons. A door comes down between them with only a porthole in it. “No sense in both of us getting caught,” says the Doctor and runs off, leaving Clara to survive as best she can. You can see her sense of betrayal. The Doctor does return with help and does later rescue Clara but his actions are very atypical of the Doctor.

There can also be amusing side-effects to the Doctor’s crankiness. He offers to take Clara anywhere she wants to meet anyone she wants and she asks to meet Robin Hood whom the Doctor insists never existed. They go anyway and, of course, the first person the Doctor sees is Robin Hood. Refusing to admit he’s wrong, the Doctor insists this is an imposter or a robot or a hologram or something but definitely not Robin Hood. Caught and thrown into a dungeon, the Doctor and Robin have a hysterical bickering session.

In a later episode, the Doctor goes “undercover” as a caretaker at the school where Clara teaches when she is not off traipsing through all of time and space. He pretends to be human and thinks he can get away with it. He is so tone deaf to his social ineptness that it really is very funny.

All of this makes him different from his immediate predecessors. He lacks the puppy dog verbosity of Matt Smith or the emo boyishness of David Tennant or the mannish, blunt charms of Christopher Eccleston. In fact, the only Doctor I can think of who has been as cranky was the first Doctor, William Hartnell. Maybe not even him.

I wonder how the fans who have only joined the show since Eccleston and Tennant will react to Capaldi’s Doctor? He’s older and, well, crankier. Myself – I like him. A lot. In many ways, I relate to him more. As I get older, I get – well – crankier. “Hey, you kids – get away from my TARDIS!”

So – here’s to Doctor McCrankypants. Long may he travel through space and time, alienating friends and enemies alike. Go get em, Doctor.


New Who Review – “Flatline”

It’s the premise of a classic short novel by a Shakespearian scholar and at least a half dozen EC Comics.  What happens when beings based in a differing number of dimensions interact?  Usually it’s the higher dimensions assaulting us, but if the invasion comes from the ground up, one would hope your defensive wall could be a…

By  Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

A mysterious force is causing the dimensions in a council estate near Bristol to collapse, resulting in people vanishing, with only distended and partial projections left behind.  The TARDIS is affected by the distortion, and when it lands, the connection between the interior and exterior of the ship is…oddly affected.  Reduced to half-size, and then smaller, The Doctor is trapped within the ship, leaving Clara as the one with boots on the ground to discover the source of the attack, save everyone, and get the TARDIS back in shape – literally.  It sounds easy-peasy lemon squeezy, but it turns out to be difficult-difficult lemon…difficult.

Possibly one of the best mixes of humor and horror in an episode in quite a long time.  The magnificent distensions of the human form created by the art department are perfectly counterbalanced by the truly hilarious sight of Peter Capaldi’s hand reaching out the door of a tiny TARDIS to drag itself across the ground.  And once again, the theme of the series shines through once again – lying.

GUEST STAR REPORT – Christopher Fairbank (Fenton) most recently played The Broker in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s had parts in genre classics like The Fifth Element and the Underworld TV series, as well as voices in video games like Puppeteer.

John Cummins (George) worked on Steven Moffat’s series Coupling, though on the production end.  He’s been seen before the camera on The Hour in a couple of roles, and a member of Parliament in the most recent 24 series Live Another Day.


BUT I KNOW WHAT I LIKE – Writer Jamie Mathieson got the job for writing this episode with a unique pitch – he drew a series of pictures based on the stories, including for the one that would become this episode.  As opposed to the previous episode where Moffat handed him the title and told him to write a story around it, this one was all his idea, and Steven liked the idea of the monster enough that he asked Jamie to, ironically, flesh it out.


A good idea of how a Flatlander would see broccoli.

YOU’RE NOT THINKING TWO-DIMENSIONALLY – Edwin Abbot wrote the novela Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, as satire of Victoran culture, but it accurately described how a three-dimensional creature would be perceived in a two-dimensional world.  Carl Sagan discussed the concept in the original Cosmos, summarizing the mathematical bits of the story with visual aids.  The three-dimensional extrusions of the flatlanders are a pretty good example of how they’d us “three-deers” – a series of slices.  They took that idea and mapped it to a 3-d form, the end result being what looks like the “people” traveling through physical space with those slices making up their form.  Creative, and chilling.

UP AGAINST THE WALL, MOTHER… – There’s at least two recent videogames that use the idea of becoming two-dimensional as part of the game mechanic.  The PS3 platformer SIDEWAY: New York allows you to flatten against walls the make your way around buildings and collect graffiti tokens, and the latest Legend of Zelda game A Link Between Worlds lets Link step into cracks between light and dark lands in the adventure for the Nintendo 3DS.

DOCTOR-LITE – As has become traditional and required, this episode featured a reduced appearance by The Doctor to allow Peter Capaldi and the production staff to produce more episodes in less time. Starting with Love and Monsters, each series has featured episodes where some of the cast appeared in limited capacity to allow for what’s called “double banking”.  This episode was a reverse of The Lodger, where Amy Pond was trapped in the TARDIS while The Doctor had to work alone with only audio connection to his friend.  In both cases, this allowed the actor on the standing set to film their scenes in a short time, leaving their schedule open for other episodes’ filming.  Tennant and Tate each got a largely solo adventure in the episodes Midnight and Turn Left.

LET’S GET SMALL – The TARDIS has had issues with shrinkage before.  The Hartnell story Planet of Giants was sparked by the TARDIS materializing at the wrong size, resulting in both the ship and its inhabitants ending up the wrong size. A small error in calculation resulted in the TARDIS being reduced to 50% in size in Logopolis.  The Doctor flipped the script on the idea when fighting The Monk in The Time Meddler – he removed the dimensional control from The Monk’s ship, so while the outside of the ship remained the same, the interior reduced in size, so The Monk couldn’t enter it.

“It’s called the 2Dis…why do I even bother…” –  One of the things I was hoping for this series was a reduction of the use of the Sonic Screwdriver as a catch-all fix-me-up, and we’ve gotten that.  We’re back to seeing The Doctor create slapdash gadgets to achieve the results required, like The Machine That Goes “ding” When There’s Stuff.  That they don’t always work right is more logically explained by the fact that he’s usually literally built them on the run with anything he can lay his hands on.  Considering the TARDIS is able to instantly

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – The theme from last episode carries through to this one – Lying.  The Doctor Lies all the time, and here we see Clara finding out why.

“Excellent lying, Doctor Owsald” – Clara’s lie from last episode is exposed to both people it affected – The Doctor learned that she lied about Danny being “Okay with it” them continuing to travel, and Danny has certainly been made open to suspicion that she’s not kept her feet safe on the ground.  And as a rule, lying to people doesn’t usually go well, especially in people with whom you’re in a relationship. And both gentlemen meet that description, however different those relationships may be.

Also, that’s a nice parallel to Donna Noble being referred to as “The DoctorDonna” near the end of her run on the series as she merged minds with the Meta-Crisis Doctor,  resulting in the first human Time Lord.  She got to do the swooping in at the end and saving everyone with all the switch-flipping, and Clara had to do the hard lifting of keeping everyone together and safe until a plan came together.

“Lie to them…give them hope” – The Doctor feels quite uncomfortable about how plainly his tactics are being exposed and explained to him by Clara.

“You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara…’goodness’ has nothing to do with it” – This is the mindset of The Doctor in this series and this incarnation in microcosm. Look at what she has to do – establish dominance in a panicked crowd, take no time to mourn those who die during the fight, and spend every moment puffing everyone up so they think they have a chance of surviving.  That’s been Capaldi’s job all year.  And she did it beautifully.

“My Clara…I have chosen well” – Missy is back, watching the action via an iPad that’s positively HUGE in her hands.  Now of course, this only begs the question, how does she define “chosen”?  We might suspect we’re back to thinking she’s the one who gave Clara the phone number to the TARDIS, but it might be more a case of just choosing who will be the one to help The Doctor the most.  It would be quite a frustrating turn of events if it turns out Clara was a mole all along (as well as patently contradicting her reason for existence for most of the series), so any connection would be, one would hope, non-complicit on her part.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Clearly the governmental “go green” initiative has gone too far.  In The Forest Of The Night, coming this Saturday.

Tweeks: Taking a Deep Breath with the New Doctor

eCsP8f8The Tweeks are big fans of Doctor Who, but they are not fans of change.  It was scary times going into the Season 8 Premiere episode “Deep Breath” because Peter Capaldi looked pretty stern and serious in the promo pictures.  Could The Tweeks possibly love a doctor with those eyebrows when the last one had no eyebrows at all?  Watch this episode and see if the 12th Doctor is indeed Tweeks Approved.

New Who Review – “Deep Breath”

See, I told you he was good.

Peter Capaldi is off and flying in the role he’s been practicing for since he was four years old.  The Paternoster gang is here to cushion the blow of the wild turns in tone and character, there’s a well-hidden piece of chalk, and a dinosaur explodes.

Mind your handles, watch the spoilers and take a…

By Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley (more…)

Mindy Newell: Take A Deep Breath

“Help him. And don’t be afraid.” – The Eleventh Doctor

The best things about the return of Doctor Who this weekend. (Yep – SPOILER ALERT!)

  1. Hello, the Paternoster Gang!
  2. T. Rex in the Thames!
  3. Awesome opening credits! This time around they were created by a fan. Stephen Moffat saw his work on YouTube and said: I thought it was the only new idea for a Doctor Who title scene since 1963. And we got in touch and we said ‘OK, we’re gonna do that one.’”
  4. “Hold your breath!”
  5. Clara Oswald facing down the droid!
  6. The Eleventh Doctor!
  7. And the Twelfth!

“I don’t think I know who the Doctor is anymore,” said Clara, standing in for the rest of us. Of course the companions have always played the role of the de facto us, but I think this is the first time that an overtly honest reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration has been expressed. Yes, I know, Clara is the Impossible Girl who has been there at every turn of the Doctor’s long, long, long life, and she was witness to the meeting of three separate “faces” of the Doctor in the 50th anniversary special (The Day of the Doctor). So some may argue that she should have not been so questioning, so insecure, so bollixed by her witnessing the transformation of the young, exuberant, and sexy (more on that in a bit) Matt Smith into an old(er), aloof, cranky, and totally out-of-his-mind gentleman.

But remember, Clara did not just stumble into the Doctor’s life and onto the TARDIS, as did Rose, Donna, Martha, Amy and Rory.

The Doctor sought Clara out – intrigued by the mystery of this woman who died again and again and again, and yet lived again and again and again to cross paths with the Gallifreyan. And because of this, the dynamics of their relationship were inherently, from the beginning, different from any other the Doctor had experienced…

For Rose, for Donna, for Martha and Amy and Rory, the Doctor justified their existence.

Clara justified his.

So it isn’t any wonder that Clara so desperately wanted her Doctor back? She knew what she had meant to him, she was important to him, he could not, literally, live without her.

But what does she mean to this man, this alien, who claims to be the Doctor, but… Is he hers?

For the first time, Clara is dreadfully aware that this man, this stranger, is an alien and she cannot help the fear and distrust and dread that rises in her, threatening to choke out of existence her love and her loyalty to the man she knew.

And though Vastra and Jenny and even Strax, in his own potato-head way, try to convince her that the Doctor is the Doctor and will always be the Doctor, now and forever…

It takes a phone call from Trensalore to make her see that the Doctor needs her. He will always need her.

He will always need his Impossible Girl.

And don’t tell me that Peter Capaldi isn’t sexy!